Telecom-owned AAPT hails curb on Telstra rates

Telecom seems to regard industry regulation as a fine thing - just so long as it happens anywhere but New Zealand.

Telecom seems to regard industry regulation as a fine thing - just so long as it happens anywhere but New Zealand.

The 80% Telecom-owned carrier AAPT yesterday enthusiastically hailed action by the Australian competition watchdog to force down the rates Telstra charges competitors for interconnection to its network.

A spokesman said both Australian consumers and AAPT's chief shareholder, Telecom, would gain from the move.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced yesterday that Telstra's interconnect charges will be reduced from 2.3 to 1.8 cents per minute for 1999/2000 and from 2.0 to 1.5 cents per minute for 2000/20001.

Brian Perkins, AAPT's director of regulatory and legal, said the ACCC's decision to reduce interconnection rates represented "a victory for Australian consumers and a boost to telecommunications competition."

"It is good news for consumers because it means that companies like AAPT will have greater flexibility to become more competitive, particularly in terms of pricing," Perkins said.

"AAPT and its shareholders will also benefit from this decision, as it will assist us in further driving our costs down."

But Perkins said that "while applauding today's ACCC decision, we strongly believe there is still some way to go before Telstra's interconnection charges are reflective of world's best practice. We intend to continue to drive for an interconnect charge of around one cent per minute, in line with rates charged overseas.

"This outcome clearly illustrates the importance of having a strong regulator with effective powers to ensure Telstra's charges are consistent with those of an efficient operator and to stimulate strong, effective competition in the Australian telecommunications industry."

"We now look forward to this regulatory regime delivering a lower interconnection rate for fixed to mobile calls producing even more benefits to consumers."

In New Zealand, where there is no regulator, the benchmark for interconnection is the deal struck between Telecom and Clear, under which Clear is charged three cents per minute for access to Telecom's network - nearly three times what Telecom's Australian subsidiary regards as a fair rate in that market.

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