- Optus says Australia’s mobile wholesale market could be affected by any move to loosen proposed competition limits to restrain Telstra in the upcoming low-band auction.
- Fletcher is currently heading the ACCC's advice on competition limits for the 850MHz expansion band/900MHz auction
- On the other hand, Telstra is campaigning against the ACCC’s recommendation, including an allocation limit to stop any telco from holding more than 40% percent of all sub-1GHz band spectrum available.
According to Optus, Australia’s mobile wholesale market could be affected by any move to loosen proposed competition limits to restrain Telstra in the upcoming low-band auction.
According to VP regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan, the decision by communications minister Paul Fletcher on limits could be: “one of the most important decisions that Mr. Fletcher has to make for the future of competition in this country.”
Fletcher is currently heading the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s advice on competition limits for the 850MHz expansion band/900MHz auction, which is set to kick off later this year.
On the other hand, Telstra has been widely campaigning against the ACCC’s recommendation to the minister, including an allocation limit to stop any telco from holding more than 40% percent of all sub-1GHz band spectrum available. Nevertheless, the recommendation has the support of Optus and TPG Telecom.
According to TPG general manager external affairs Tim McPhail: “We support the ACCC’s advice to the minister on competition limits. It means that no carrier can hold more than 40% of the spectrum available in the 700, 850, and 900MHz bands. This is consistent with the approach in the recent 26GHz spectrum auction.”
Meanwhile, Telstra argued that if the government accepts the recommendation of ACCC, the regional infrastructure investment could suffer.
According to Sheridan, “If Telstra is able to lock all the spectrum they’re seeking, that’s going to clearly have an impact on us; it will also have an impact on TPG”.
“I think in that situation, we’re going to have to have a look at all the policy measures and may need to have a reconsideration around issues such as network sharing, even roaming.”
Furthermore, Sheridan added that “Telstra’s arguments are straight out of the monopoly playbook. You ignore facts, you challenge the independent regulator, and then you shout as loudly as possible.”
He also noted that “some of the spectrum that is being brought to market in this auction is actually currently used by Optus and TPG to provide pretty important, in fact, I’d say essential, voice and data services across Australia, but particularly regional Australia. It’s really important that we exercise care in terms of ensuring that there’s a balance in terms of how much each operator can acquire.”
Sheridan also points out that even with a cap, Telstra will still be able to grow its spectrum holdings. “Telstra has three times the low band spectrum than we have in regional areas, something like 70MHz versus our 20MHz. They will be able to top that up to 80MHz. That’s more than enough.”