The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced a decision under which access to wholesale superfast broadband services will be regulated, with the watchdog declaring a new five-year ‘superfast broadband access service’ (SBAS). In a press release the ACCC noted that the SBAS declaration will allow alternative providers to access non-National Broadband Network (non-NBN) network services that offer downlink speeds of more than 25Mbps. Such services include the fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) network operated by TPG subsidiary AAPT and fixed line incumbent Telstra’s fibre networks in South Brisbane and Velocity estates.
Alongside the SBAS declaration, the ACCC has launched a public inquiry into the price and non-price terms of access that should apply to the new wholesale service. For now, the regulator has set interim price and non-price terms and conditions to apply for the next twelve months while it completes this inquiry; interim prices for entry level services have reportedly been benchmarked to existing regulated prices for similar superfast broadband services on the NBN and other networks, while the ACCC has exempted those superfast broadband operators supplying less than 20,000 customers. During the inquiry the ACCC will look closely at the likely compliance costs for such operators, being mindful of the price benefits competition can bring to consumers. Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that the TransACT/iiNet VDSL network and the HFC network in regional Victoria – all if which are owned by TPG – will be exempted in the interim, to allow sufficient time for these networks to be reconfigured to supply an SBAS product.
Commenting on the development, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: ‘What this access declaration does is provide retailers with the opportunity to enter superfast broadband markets, and in turn increase competition … This decision will also help to simplify and clarify the existing regulations that apply to superfast broadband services, allowing all retail providers to compete on their relative merits, regardless of the technology used, when the network was constructed, or who operates it.’
In separate but related news, nbn has announced the launch of its first commercial HFC-based services over the network belonging to Telstra. With connectivity initially on offer in Ocean Reef, Western Australia, end users are able to order services from three retail service providers at launch – Optus, TPG and Exetel – with download speeds of up to 100Mbps on offer. On the back of the development, and having previously inaugurated HFC-based services over Optus infrastructure last month, nbn has said it expects to have nearly 900,000 HFC premises ready for service across the country by June 2017, with around 200,000 of those expected to have been activated by that date. Once complete, the final NBN HFC footprint is expected to cover more than three million premises.