ACCC welcomes 5G but flags competition issues

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is rethinking the way it approaches spectrum competition issues ahead of the upcoming 5G auction, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

At the RadComms conference held in Sydney on 1 November 2017, Mr Sims also urged government to take a long-term, consumer-centric approach to spectrum allocations.

"Traditionally, the ACCC has sought to prevent dominance of spectrum by any one licensee in particular bands. However, we are rethinking this approach," Mr Sims told the conference.

"Instead, and this is a key point, we want to consider spectrum holdings holistically rather than in particular bands," he said.

"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," Mr 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," he said.

Mr Sims urged government 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.

Mr Sims also foreshadowed the competition challenges of 5G, which could be a substitute for fixed networks.

"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," Mr Sims said.

"The Internet of Things will present mobile network operators with incentives for deployment, including in regional Australia," 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," he said.

"Increasingly, the need for data to support businesses will justify new investments," Mr Sims said.

"The ACCC will closely monitor whether our regulatory settings promote interconnection between networks, particularly between smaller fixed networks and larger mobile networks, and provide incentives for investing in regional mobile coverage," he said.

"We want the full benefits of 5G to be realised, and we want these benefits to be realised by all Australians through a competitive market," Mr Sims said.
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