The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that it is launching an inquiry considering whether or not it should declare a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service. The regulator said that the declaration inquiry will focus on a number of key issues, including: how consumer demands for mobile services are evolving, and whether there are differences in regional areas to urban areas; the likely investment plans of each of the mobile network operators to extend coverage and upgrade technology, absent a declaration; whether there are any significant barriers to expanding the reach of mobile networks; and any lessons from similar experience with domestic mobile roaming in other countries. The ACCC noted that it had previously considered mobile roaming in regional areas in inquiries held in 1998 and 2005, though on both occasions it opted not to regulate an access service as it was satisfied roaming agreements were being commercially negotiated.
Separately, the ACCC has published an issues paper which calls for comment on a range of matters that may affect competition, the efficient operation of markets, and investment incentives over the next five years. With the paper forming part of the regulator’s communications market study, it is looking to address a number of key areas including: the need to manage significant demand for data; the transition to the National Broadband Network (NBN) and what this means for competition and meeting consumer expectations; the relationship between mobile and fixed-line networks; industry consolidation and the transition to a new market structure; and the emergence of new technologies and delivery platforms. Submissions are invited until 14 October 2016, with the ACCC expected to release its draft findings for comment in mid-2017 before publishing a final report by the end of that year.