TUANZ is urging communications commissioner Dr Stephen Gale to initiate a review of New Zealand’s mobile telecommunications market, saying the lack of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) is putting a damper on competition.
TUANZ says its initiative was prompted by a similar request to Gale from communications minister Simon Bridges. He wrote to Gale on 8 June to signal his interest in the Commission undertaking a review of the mobile telecommunications market, using its monitoring powers under s.9A of the Telecommunications Act.
TUANZ in its letter reiterated the concerns raised in its November 2015 submission to the Government’s review of the Telecommunications Act 2001, in which it said:
“To see increased innovation within [the] mobile marketplace, New Zealand needs more than three MNOs. It needs a fully functioning MVNO environment with the competition that will bring.
“We believe that, for the long-term benefits for end users, there should be an independent review of the wholesale mobile market around all aspects, from roaming to MVNOs, through all forms of infrastructure sharing.
“The aim should be to ensure that the right access and incentives are in place and could be undertaken by the Commerce Commission similar to other investigations it has undertaken.”
The letter represents the third time TUANZ has raised these concerns: they were restated in a September 2016 submission.
It acknowledged there had been progress but said:
“Since the date of those submissions we have consulted further with our members and it has become apparent that there is concern amongst them that the rates paid for calls made from mobile devices to toll free numbers (mobile origination) remain high when compared with the regulated rates for mobile termination.
“With the growth in the use of mobile devices to access services from organisations such as banks and government departments, these organisations are seeing significant increases in the cost of providing this which could lead to end users being unable to access services they may be entitled to.”
Minister also unhappy with lack of MVNOs
When Bridges wrote to Gale in June he had just announced his decisions on a review of the Telecommunication Act 2001 and said that a number of submissions to that review had raised concerns “about the effectiveness of regulation at the wholesale level, particularly with regard to the provision of mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services.”
Bridges noted: “In other countries these services are an important part of the mobile ‘ecosystem’ and the widespread availability of such services has led to better outcomes for consumers.”
Bridges said that, as a result of these and other concerns raised by submitters, he proposed to streamline the Commission's powers to investigate and recommend regulation, to enable it to react quickly if there was a problem in the mobile market.
“I understand that the Commission has been considering a review of the mobile market as part of its normal work program. In light of the concerns that have been raised, I would encourage you to review the mobile market in the near future, to test whether competition is working effectively,” Bridges said.
He asked the Commission to present its views on “the nature, direction and timeline of your future work in this area, and the specific issues that you consider may warrant further investigation.”