Telstra and TPG have rustled up a fleet of external experts in their submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in their proposed spectrum and network-sharing deal.
The telco duo has issued a number of responses to Optus’ claim that the network-sharing agreement counts as a merger and will decrease competition in rural and regional Australia’s mobile market.
The ACCC is set to rule on the proposed 10-year multi-operator core network (MOCN) in November.
“The proposed transaction effectively increases the number of mobile network operators providing their own services in many regional and rural areas across Australia from two to three,” the duo’s submission to the ACCC read.
“The strong, near overwhelming, support of unaligned regional and rural stakeholder groups highlights a customer awareness of this competitive benefit.”
In the mostly redacted submission, Telstra and TPG recruited extra muscle in the form of competition expert Richard Feasey, economists Emma Ihaia and Dr Jorge Padilla and network capacity modelling from Aetha.
Ihaia in particular claimed that the deal, which will allow TPG access to 3,700 of Telstra’s mobile network assets, will reduce mobile congestion in regional areas.
Back in February, TPG first signed with Telstra, which, if successful, will see the former decommission around 725 mobile sites it currently operates within Telstra's coverage area.
Telstra will then obtain access to and deploy infrastructure on up to 169 of TPG Telecom’s existing mobile sites as well as some of its existing 4G and 5G spectrum in regional areas.
Optus however claimed the deal will effectively “eliminate choice” in regional Australia and substantially weaken Optus in regard to investing in regional areas, and even went as far as to call the deal a “merger”.
“Should the proposed transaction proceed, this further strengthening and entrenching of Telstra’s dominance in regional areas will mean that no rational competitor will be able to justify further significant investment in regional areas,” Optus’ ACCC submission read.
In a new statement to ARN, Optus vice president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan maintained that the MOCN would create a "monopoly".
"The regional network merger proposed by TPG and Telstra is extraordinary in its attempt to take choice away from consumers and provide so much power to a single provider," he said
"We look forward to reviewing our competitors’ latest submission and how they rationalise such an anti-competitive arrangement should be allowed."