Telstra and TPG have today announced a new deal which allows the two major telcos to share network access, greatly improving the latter's coverage in regional and rural areas, which has been a sore point for the network to date.
The TPG Telecom group actually owns a few of Australia's providers, including Vodafone, iiNet and Felix, so all existing and future customers signed up to these telcos will benefit from the deal.
The agreement will mean that all telcos under TPG Telecom will have their 4G mobile coverage extended from around 96% to 98.8% of the Australian population, jumping ahead of Optus (with its current 97.3% reach) and second only to Telstra in Australia, itself measuring 99.2%.
TPG and its associated brands will gain access to roughly 3,700 additional coverage sites, increasing their 4G and 5G footprint fivefold compared with their existing reach.
New hope for regional and rural Australia
At present, many residents in regional and rural areas of Australia have a very limited choice when it comes to mobile providers, as Telstra's plans often present the only real option for obtaining coverage in these regions.
This means that affected customers are paying the premium prices associated with the telco, but the new deal will give these Australians access to more affordable alternatives via Vodafone, iiNet, Felix and even TPG's own mobile service.
The agreement is part of a 10-year deal, with customers being able to see its benefits "by the end of the year," and TPG Telecom has the option to request two extensions of five years apiece, totalling a possible 20-year period.
It's worth noting that the agreement is still subject to approval by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Historically, the ACCC has attempted to block the TPG and Vodafone merger (unsuccessfully), so it's possible that the Aussie consumer watchdog may take issue with the potentially anti-competitive nature of the deal.
When reaching out to the ACCC, chairman Rod Sims told TechRadar that "this is something we will have to look at very carefully".
For customers in major cities and other urban areas it will be business as usual once the deal goes ahead, with these Aussies continuing to have access to the 4G and 5G networks of the telco they signed up with.