Australia and New Zealand to empower regulators to drive down roaming costs

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has teamed up with Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) to conduct a report on trans-Tasman roaming services. The report recommends increased powers for regulators in both countries to intervene in the market.

The two bodies propose that their respective governments introduce legislation to require operators to provide their telecoms regulators with wholesale and retail traffic and revenue  information on roaming between the two countries, and for the regulators to report publicly on this.

Another proposal is for the two governments to empower the New Zealand and  Australian regulators when investigating trans-Tasman roaming services, to be able to choose from a wider range of regulatory measures, should the regulators determine that intervention is warranted.

“The benefits of expanding the regulators’ palette of remedies mimic those of directly intervening, with far fewer upfront costs,” the two bodies said in their report. “Because operators, particularly those in New Zealand, have responded to the threat of effective regulation posed by the current investigation, it is likely that, once enhanced remedies are implemented, prices for trans-Tasman roaming will continue their decline and operators will continue to expand the array of features they offer their trans-Tasman roamers –perhaps even introducing mobile local-access services.”

The report added that in the event that this does not occur, and regulators are obliged to intervene in the market, then prices will at that time be forced down to competitive levels.

“Requiring the regulators to collect and report on pricing trends could “name and shame” operators (as a group) into more competitive offerings,” the report continued. “It would also provide the regulators, and potentially the governments during a review of the effectiveness of the regime proposed, with information  they could use to decide whether consideration of further (or less) intervention is necessary.”

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