- A formal launch of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation into access to towers and active infrastructure is underway.
- The primary objective of the regulator is to gather information on the evolving tower market as well as evaluate whether updates are necessary for the facilities' access code.
- According to Commissioner Peter Crone, the regional towers inquiry “may provide insights into whether changes need to be made to the facilities access regime.”
A formal launch of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation into access to towers and associated passive and active infrastructure is underway.
The primary objective of the regulator is to gather information on the evolving tower market as well as evaluate whether updates are necessary for the facilities' access code.
According to Commissioner Peter Crone, the regional towers inquiry “may provide insights into whether changes need to be made to the facilities access regime.”
He also said, “This is timely in light of the significant changes in technology we’ve seen over the past 20 years, as well as more recent changes to industry structure.”
The commissioner also noted the recent flurry of changes in the tower space, including Telstra and Optus spinning out Amplitel and Australia Tower Network. He said, “We don’t know how commercial arrangements to access towers will develop."
“And at this stage, we don’t have much information on the operation and objectives of new tower operators,” he added.
He added that it was expected that “the commercial operations of these new tower entities will change significantly” from what they had been when they were primarily under the control of the mobile operators.
The commissioner added that the facilities access regime “has been an important fallback mechanism where communities where commercial negotiations are either frustrated or fail.”
“The amendments ensure that those seeking access to essential infrastructures, such as telecommunications towers, could continue to rely on regulated access on reasonable terms and in a timely manner, should that be required,” he added.
Another aspect of the regulator's inquiry is the possibility of providing mobile roaming during emergencies.
“We have some experience in examining mobile roaming issues more broadly,” the commissioner noted. He also added that the ACCC acknowledged it was a complex and technical issue with “a lot of possible options.”
“We don’t currently see a need to reprosecute the arguments for and against broader domestic roaming,” Crone said.
The commissioner also detailed some of the work on mobile coverage data made by the regulator, which he said was necessary to help ensure regional subsidies are correctly targeted.
“Since then, the mobile network operators have agreed to adopt a common methodology to describe the three standard levels of coverage to consumers,” he said. “This has improved the usability of coverage maps.”
The regulator intends to release an edition of the report annually, which the commissioner said would help “provide greater transparency and accountability, particularly for regional communities.”
According to Crone, there were certain issues with coverage data that the ACCC is keen to address. In this case, the most important is the different assumptions MNOs used in their coverage calculations.
“This makes direct comparisons extremely difficult,” he said.
“Predictive coverage maps and other public information do not accurately reflect on-the-ground telecommunications experience.”