ACCC regulating voice MTAS until 2024; deregulating SMS January 2020

1 Jul 2019

Australia’s domestic Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) for voice services will be regulated for a further five years, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has confirmed. In publishing its final report, the regulator also revealed that regulation of the MTAS for SMS services will not continue.

With the previous declaration of voice and SMS MTAS having been scheduled to expire on 30 June 2019, the ACCC had launched a public inquiry regarding the services back in August 2018, examining whether the declaration should be revoked, extended or varied. On the back of this inquiry, and what the regulator called an ‘extensive’ consultation, it has now said it will continue the declaration of voice terminating services until 2024, but will end declaration of the SMS MTAS service on 1 January 2020.

According to the ACCC, while some stakeholders were reported to have expressed concerns about the impact of ending SMS MTAS regulation on app-to-person (A2P) services – which are often used by businesses to communicate special deals or sales to customers – the regulator said it considered that there were sufficient alternatives to A2P SMS to constrain wholesale SMS MTAS prices.

Commenting on the matter, ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said: ‘When we decided to regulate wholesale SMS termination services in 2014, mobile operators were charging each other significantly above cost for these services, with a flow-on impact for retail SMS prices … We have found that this need to regulate SMS termination has disappeared over time because of increasing competition from over-the-top services like WhatsApp and iMessage, and because most mobile plans in the market now offer unlimited SMS … However, over-the-top voice services are not yet substitutes for mobile voice calls, so it is appropriate to continue declaration of MTAS for voice services.’