ACCC rethinking approach to spectrum competition

02 Nov 2017

Australian competition regulator ACCC has revealed it is rethinking its approach to spectrum competition issues ahead of the upcoming 5G auction.

In a speech at the RadComms conference in Sydney, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the regulator has traditionally sought to prevent dominance of spectrum holdings by any one licensee in individual spectrum bands.

But in the 5G era, the regulator instead wants to consider spectrum holdings holistically, so that a regulator could have dominant holdings in an individual band so long as it is not dominant in its overall control over spectrum.

“Companies put a value on preventing their competitors or potential competitors getting access to spectrum. This means that a large part of the value of spectrum is actually in reducing competition,” Sims said.

“I do not want to see some players, particularly a new mobiles entrant, prevented from competing with incumbents because they cannot get access to sufficient spectrum.”

The regulator is also urging the government to take a long-term, customer-centric approach to spectrum allocations, and to look beyond the budget bottom line when auctioning spectrum.

“The value of spectrum lies in the economic and social benefits it can provide to citizens and consumers, not in financial returns to the Budget,” he said.

Sims also noted that 5G could be a substitute for fixed networks due to the high speeds available, and will incentivize new investments from the mobile sector particularly in regional areas with limited existing coverage.

“5G allows wireless broadband services at gigabit speeds, the ability to connect large numbers of devices and objects which would facilitate the Internet of Things, and the ability to provide a number of discrete fit for purpose networks rather than general purpose networks,” he said.

“As the role of mobile networks stretches beyond providing communications between people, to providing connectivity to millions of devices and objects, the business cases for network deployment will no longer be restricted to where people live and travel. Increasingly, the need for data to support businesses will justify new investments.”

NBN Co, the company building the state-owned national broadband network, has recently called on the government to consider extending the current broadband levy - charged on competing high-speed fixed broadband services to help pay for the cost of the rollout – to 5G and other fixed wireless broadband services. But prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out such a change.

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