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ACCC To Review Wholesale Mobile Voice & SMS Regulation

The ACCC has commenced a pubic inquiry into the regulation of wholesale mobile voice and SMS services, claiming ‘over-the-top’ methods (such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) may require current regulation to be amended.

The watchdog’s public inquiry will determine whether Australia’s ‘mobile terminating access service’ declaration (MTAS) should be extended, varied, or revamped in light of technological innovation.

The MTAS is a wholesale agreement which enable consumers on different networks to SMS or call each other.

At current, the ACCC regulates the MTAS to ensure calls can be made between all consumers on all mobile phone networks.

The ACCC claims Australia’s mobile landscape has considerably changed since current declaration was made in 2014.

Technological changes include increased usage of ‘over-the-top’ services (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype) coupled with ‘Voice over Long Term Evolution’ (VoLTE) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFI) calling on all mobile networks.

The new public inquiry will ascertain whether the MTAS should remain a ‘declared’ or unregulated service.

ACCC Commissioner, Cristina Cifuentes, claims in the past wholesale mobile termination has helped lower retail mobile service prices for consumers – the inquiry will determine whether continued regulation is required to deliver such results.

“Given the pace of technological change in mobile networks, the ACCC will seek to determine whether the service description remains fit-for-purpose and accurate,” states Cifuentes.

“We also intend to test what effect the declaration of SMS services in 2014 has had on relevant markets, in particular its impact on consumers.”

Australian consumers are increasingly choosing over-the-top services for calls and messages, thereby falling outside the MTAS.

“These fall outside the MTAS service description and we are interested in knowing whether the ability of consumers to choose these ways of communicating means that declaration of the MTAS is no longer necessary,” claims Cifuentes.

Submissions are invited by September 14th 2018, with further information on the ACCC’s website here.

 

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