Optus urges ACCC to block TPG-Telstra network sharing agreement

25 Mar 2022

Optus has reportedly called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to block the network sharing agreement announced by rivals Telstra and TPG Telecom last month, claiming it has the potential to create a 5G monopoly in regional areas.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Optus has argued that the agreement between Telstra and TPG not only highlights the latter’s lack of interest in investing in regional Australia but also allows Telstra to bypass competition rules that restrict its ability to obtain access to valuable 5G spectrum. Andrew Sheridan, Optus’ vice president of regulatory and public affairs, was cited as saying of the matter: ‘The partnership overturns 30 years of competition policy by eliminating one of Telstra’s competitors and seriously placing Telstra’s main competitor, Optus, at a disadvantage … We believe the ACCC should consider consumers’ best interests in their decision and block this arrangement for the benefit of regional Australians.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in February 2022 Telstra and TPG announced what they called a ‘ground-breaking ten-year regional Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) commercial agreement’. Under the deal TPG will be able to utilise around 3,700 of Telstra’s mobile network assets, while in return Telstra will gain access to TPG Telecom’s spectrum. In addition, Telstra will share its RAN for 4G, and subsequently 5G, in the defined coverage zone, though both companies will continue to operate their own core network. Telstra will also obtain access to and deploy infrastructure on up to 169 TPG Telecom existing mobile sites, improving coverage for both parties’ customers in the zone. TPG will continue to operate its own 3G, 4G and 5G networks in metropolitan areas, reaching around 80% of the population – bolstered by its network infrastructure sharing arrangement with Optus in those areas. TPG will, however, decommission the 725 mobile sites it currently operates within the MOCN coverage area with a view to ‘reducing environmental impact, energy consumption, operating costs and future CAPEX’.