The Commerce Commission has decreed that regulations requiring the three mobile network operators to provide wholesale access to their networks for a period of time to any new mobile network operator should remain in place.
The regulation enables a new operator to attract customers by being able to offer immediate nationwide coverage while it builds its own network.
Under the roaming regulation mobile operators are required to provide access to a new operator with a network of at least 100 cell sites or one that covers at least 10 percent of the population, and has a rollout plan for at least 65 percent population coverage. The regulation does not cover wholesale access for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
Telecommunications commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said: “We believe the roaming opportunity remains relevant because it could help any new mobile business enter the market in the future, as it did when 2degrees launched. He added: “Submissions we received on this decision generally supported this view.”
However both Vodafone and Spark argued that network expansion could be facilitated by co-location, and Vodafone submitted that the market for co-location was well established and functioning and that the National Environment Standard for Telecommunications Facilities (NESTF) makes for fast, easy and cheap mobile infrastructure development.
The commission disagreed. “There are important differences between co-location and roaming, and their respective roles for an entrant’s ability to offer coverage,” it said.
“We have previously stated that ‘Roaming provides the entrant with the ability to offer, at launch, mobile services beyond its initial network reach, and this ability to offer national coverage is generally accepted as being an important feature of a mobile service’.
“Co-location relates to the gradual deployment of the entrant’s network. As a result, in the short term, co-location is not likely to be a substitute for roaming, as roaming offers immediate coverage We maintain this view under the current circumstances.”
The Commission’s full reasons for its decision can be found here.
Under the Telecommunications Act, the commission is required once every five years to consider the deregulation of certain services, including national mobile roaming. it recently released an issues paper looking into the wider mobile telecommunications market in New Zealand.