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Aussie watchdog reviews termination regulations

NBN is claiming more coverage in the bush

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has kicked off a public inquiry to decide whether to extend, vary or revoke the domestic mobile terminating access service (MTAS) declaration.

MTAS is the wholesale service offered between the mobile operators to allow customers to call and send texts to those who might use a different provider. The terminating network (the one receiving the call or SMS) charges the originating one, which in turn recovers the cost from the consumer through monthly tariffs. The issue which the ACCC wants to address is the way in which consumers are communicating with each other.

“Increasingly, consumers are choosing over-the-top services to make calls and send messages,” said ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes. “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.

“Regulation of wholesale mobile termination has, in the past, helped to lower retail prices for mobile services for the benefit of consumers. This inquiry will consider whether continued regulation is needed to deliver this result. 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. 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.”

In short, consumers are no longer using voice and SMS in the same way, so should it be regulated in a different manner.

The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 requires the ACCC to review the current MTAS declaration during the 18 month period before it expires, which will be on June 30 2019. Such is the size of the Australian landscape, the ACCC believes operators effectively have a monopoly when it comes to accessing its customers, therefore regulation is required. Back in 2014, the introduction of the original declaration was justified to ensure operators did not deny or set unreasonable terms of access to these termination services.

The review will decide whether MTAS should remain a ‘declared’ or regulated service in light of changes in the way consumers use devices. As it stands, there is a difference of opinion in the industry. During the Commission’s Sector Market Study, Telstra and TPG said they were in favour of a less regulated service, while Macquarie Telecom, Vodafone and MessageMedia were all in support of ongoing regulation.


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