Vocus brands NBN Co partner program ‘latest example’ of RSP encroachment

Vocus brands NBN Co partner program ‘latest example’ of RSP encroachment

Telco has now called for NBN Co to drop all engagement activities with end-users

Credit: NBN Co

Vocus has attacked NBN Co’s roll-out of a channel sale program as the latest example of it “encroaching” into the domain of retail service providers (RSPs).

The Australian telco has joined a host of rival RSPs in attacking the government-owned broadband wholesaler's pivot to selling enterprise broadband deals directly to end-users.

In its submission to the  government committee looking at NBN Co’s enterprise activities, Vocus claimed the expansion of NBN Co's channel partner program from an “education initiative” into a sales campaign with direct financial incentives is “the latest example of NBN encroaching into the domain of RSPs”. 

NBN Co first turned to the channel at the end of 2018 with the official launch of its sales program. Under the leadership of channel chief Keith Masterton, the provider inked deals with up to 920 partners within its first year. 

Vocus, alongside Telstra and TPG, have been vocal in their criticism of NBN Co’s bypassing of RSPs to sell direct to enterprise users, which the telcos regard as a threat to competition.

As such, Vocus has now called for NBN Co to either drop all engagement activities with end-users or structurally separate its direct sales team from that of its wholesale.

In its submission to the committee, Vocus argued NBN Co’s enterprise business “executed appropriately” should “improve competition in underserved areas” plus the retail market competition.

“But the reality of NBN’s behaviour in the enterprise market has been very different to these expectations,” according to the submission. 

“Rather than focusing on improving competition in underserved areas like regional Australia, NBN has been actively overbuilding competitive networks in well-served metropolitan areas.”

 As a result, Vocus claimed, NBN Co is “incentivised to favour RSPs which will use the greatest amount of NBN fibre” over their own fibre assets.

The results of this, according to Vocus, was the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warning to the NBN provider for discriminatory sales activity that favoured Macquarie Telecom.

“NBN should not engage directly with end-users to ensure it operates solely within its wholesale-only remit; to reduce end-user confusion and conflict between RSPs and NBN’s ‘industry engagement’ staff; and to ensure it does not gain an unfair advantage in the market due to its access to information about end-user requirements,” Vocus argued.

Alternatively, in the absence of a complete shut-down of NBN’s direct sales team, Vocus called for NBN’s enterprise business be subject to separation requirements with the regulatory oversight to Telstra’s Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU).

“This should require NBN’s wholesale staff to work separately from its direct sales staff; and should include legally enforceable ‘Protected Information’ requirement,” the submission added.

“Additionally, in the absence of a shutdown of the direct sales team, NBN Co’s non-discrimination obligations should apply equally to its contracts with both RSPs and end users, which should be offered equivalent terms for enterprise fibre builds.”

NBN Co today announced it was looking into possible ways of using third-party dark fibre connections for enterprise and government Ethernet connections in areas already serviced by existing fibre, rather than building its own. 

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Tags nbn coVocusRSPKeith Masterton


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