Anger Spreads As ACCC Rules To Let Telstra Keep Bush Monopoly
Friday’s draft decision by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to bar wholesale mobile roaming among Australian telcos’ regional networks is seen as a huge win for Telstra and a major blow for smaller operators – and for regional users.
Telstra declared it as “the right decision for the people, businesses and communities of regional Australia”, despite it limiting choice and maximising the cost of services to rural and outback Australia.
No. 3 operator Vodafone had been seeking a deal which would allow it to piggyback on Telstra’s regional networks, where it currently has few towers and it would be uneconomic to build new ones. It would have paid Telstra for such a service.
But Vodafone is not the only one embittered by the decision. The Competitive Carriers’ Coalition at the weekend accused the ACCC of allowing Telstra to use its monopoly power to “over-charge consumers and undermine national telecoms competition”.
MyNetFone, Macquarie Telecom and mobile network provider Pivotel also attacked the ACCC decision. MyNetFone CEO Rene Sugo, pictured, suggested that his company’s proposal for a virtual number service – still awaiting government approval – could give regional consumers some choice.
The Australian’s John Durie wrote: “The ACCC has dropped the ball on this issue and let Telstra get away with competition blue murder.”
A rather more urbane telecoms market researcher Paul Budde told CDN: “I can see both sides of the argument. Telstra has built a first-class mobile network in Australia . . .
“On the other side, the nature of Australia is such that in large parts of the country with low density population, competing mobile infrastructure is economically unviable. This limits competition and customers are missing out on choice, innovation and low prices.
“I have been advocating a case-by-case approach. With our sophisticated data analytics we are able to pinpoint the trouble areas and look for tailor-made solutions for these areas . . . The ACCC has left the door open for a discussion of such possibilities and perhaps this will be the best way forward.”