Optus has asked ACCC to block Telstra/TPG network sharing deal

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Image by TK Kurikawa | Bigstockphoto

CommsUpdate: Australia’s Optus confirmed earlier reports that it has lodged a submission to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) consultation related to the proposed network sharing agreement between rivals Telstra and TPG Telecom.

In a press release issued on Tuesday regarding the matter, Optus claimed that the operators’ tie-up may lead to less investment in regional areas of the country, while arguing it “overturns 30 years of regulatory and market settings that have promoted competition and investment in the telecommunications sector.”

According to Optus, should the proposed deal move forward, the country’s mobile sector “will be more acutely characterised by a monopoly provider”, and it has suggested such a situation could lead to: higher prices across the country; lower overall investment in the communications market; lower network and service quality; and less choice for regional consumers.

Moreover, Optus’ submission to the ACCC argues that the network sharing deal would “further entrench and extend the dominant market position of Telstra which will undermine the commercial viability of additional investment in regional infrastructure (which TPG is abandoning) by any rational company, ‘locking’ competition out of the regional market and eliminating choice in regional Australia.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported about Optus’ ACCC submission in March, but Optus hadn’t confirmed the report until now.

In February 2022, Telstra and TPG announced what they called a “ground-breaking ten-year regional Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) commercial agreement”. Under the deal TPG will be able to utilise around 3,700 of Telstra’s mobile network assets, while in return Telstra will gain access to TPG Telecom’s spectrum.

In addition, Telstra will share its RAN for 4G, and subsequently 5G, in the defined coverage zone, though both companies will continue to operate their own core network. Telstra will also obtain access to and deploy infrastructure on up to 169 TPG Telecom existing mobile sites, improving coverage for both parties’ customers in the zone.

TPG will continue to operate its own 3G, 4G and 5G networks in metropolitan areas, reaching around 80% of the population – bolstered by its network infrastructure sharing arrangement with Optus in those areas.

TPG said at the time it would decommission the 725 mobile sites it currently operates within the MOCN coverage area with a view to “reducing environmental impact, energy consumption, operating costs and future capex.”

In May, TPG Telecom entered into a binding agreement to sell 100% of its passive mobile tower and rooftop infrastructure to OMERS Infrastructure Management for an enterprise value of A$950 million ($671 million). That deal includes 120 sites in non-metropolitan locations at which TPG Telecom intends to decommission its active equipment under the MOCN) agreement.

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