Australian commission prods ISDN price cuts

Price falls are already flowing in the wake of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision to prod the pace of competition in the ISDN market. Telstra has about 15% off access rental charges for its OnRamp service. Some observers anticipate 30% and 40% price cuts as a result of the ACCC's decision to 'declare' ISDN services. Others are more sanguine.

Price falls are already flowing in the wake of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision to prod the pace of competition in the ISDN market.

Telstra this week sliced about 15% off access rental charges for its OnRamp service. Monthly rentals for customers with the 30-channel OnRamp 30 service, for example, will drop to $A690 from $795.

Some observers point to the 30% and 40% price cuts generated by competition in the long-distance voice market as a benchmark for potential ISDN savings.

Others are reluctant to nominate specific figures until more detail emerges on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC's) recent decision to declare some ISDN services.

The ACCC's move means Telstra, which currently holds a monopoly on ISDN services, will eventually have to make them available to rival suppliers on non-discriminatory terms and conditions.

That will benefit end-users by allowing other ISDN providers to come into the marketplace, said Allan Horsley, managing director of the Australian Telecommunications User Group (Atug).

Horsley expects a multivendor ISDN network to take shape as some service providers decide to directly connect customers to their own ISDN networks rather than use Telstra's.

The new players may experiment with abolishing ISDN time and distance related tariffs to offer untimed, distance-independent ISDN calls, Horsely suggested.

However, it is unlikely competing services will ramp up before early next year, he said.

The Service Providers Action Network, (Span) a 100-member group representing many of the potential new ISDN providers, was also upbeat about the ACCC's action.

"We see it as a further step by the ACCC in freeing up access to essential facilities and creating an effective wholesale and retail industry framework," said Span Chairman Phil Singleton. "It will be good for end-users because it means more business opportunities will be available to suppliers who have access to facilities on better terms."

An Optus spokesman agreed declaration of the service would theoretically lead to lower prices. But he cautioned that no practical Australian example yet existed of a declaration process that has been carried through to the conclusion of a successful arbitration.

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