Small Australian telcos hit out at Telstra/TPG wholesale deal

Michelle Lim Commpete.jpg

The trade association of Australia’s smaller carriers has hit out against a network-sharing plan by two of the biggest operators.

Commpete – which describes itself as a telco industry alliance advocating for greater competition – has flagged serious concerns with the proposed Telstra-TPG Telecom network sharing merger, agreed in February.

TPG Telecom, which is not connected with the US-based infrastructure investor, TPG Capital – merged in 2020 with Vodafone-Hutchison Australia (VHA).

Commpete’s chair, Michelle Lim (pictured), said: “This proposal further embeds Telstra’s dominance and control of both retail and wholesale markets nationwide. It’s another lever which leads to further concentrated control for Telstra of the national mobile market without having the regulatory guardrails to guarantee value, flexibility and choice to all Australians.”

The organisation’s members include Macquarie Telecom, TasmaNet, Symbio (formerly MNF), Inabox, MyRepublic and Southern Phone Company.

Lim said: “This is a serious strategic concern, and the decisions being made now will be marker of what lies ahead for competitive opportunity and Australia’s digital future overall.”

Commpete called the Telstra/TPG deal a merger. “This is because the proposal applicants are seeking merger authorisation of the use by Telstra of spectrum held by TPG.”

This means that, after the 2028 spectrum auction, “TPG and all customers will have little choice of supplier and will be beholden to the commercial terms dictated by Telstra, and this will get passed down to the consumer.”

The organisation said it is “a strong supporter of neutral host mobile sharing models”, and has “spearheaded neutral host models” in its submission to last year’s regional telecommunications review in Australia.

It says there is a high risk that “both Telstra and TPG will seek to limit access” to radio access networks by mobile virtual network operators. It says the proposed deal “is arguably imbalanced towards Telstra, and is not an incentive-based model to stimulate competition and deliver the optimal value, flexibility and choice to consumers”.