​NBN and 5G under scrutiny as spotlight falls on Aussie telco sector

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to launch market study of the communications industry.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will launch a market study of the communications industry, scrutinising the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout, changing bandwidth demands and the impending launch of 5G.

The market study - expected to be completed in 2017 - will examine a wide range of issues concerning competition and efficiency in communications markets, involving consultation with industry participants and consumers.

According to ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, Australia is witnessing a “significant change” in the way communications occur.

“Rapidly evolving technological developments, structural change within the sector, product innovation, and changing consumer preferences are all contributing to this change,” he said.

Sims said the market study provides an opportunity for the ACCC to conduct research and listen to various views on technological developments and emerging trends.

“We recognise the communications sector is one that all Australians have an interest in, and one that facilitates economic growth,” he added.

“Importantly, the study will also allow the ACCC to consider a wide range of interrelated issues that have been raised by the sector and that go to the proper functioning of the market.

“The study will examine the changing landscape and identify any issues preventing the use of innovation and investment to deliver the benefits of competition to consumers.”

Sims said the ACCC has had preliminary discussions with a number of stakeholders, with the market study set to specifically focus on the changing structure of communications markets, particularly the transition to a fixed-line market in which NBN Co is the wholesale provider to retail service providers, and consolidation and market concentration within the retail sector.

Also, Sims said the growth in availability of services provided ‘over the top’ (OTT) using the internet as a delivery platform will fall under the spotlight, with services including social network platforms, communications and marketplace apps.

The study will deep dive into the “exponential growth” in the demand for bandwidth and data in recent years as well, examining the “significant demands” on network capacity as well as the increased use of mobile data by consumers and the increasing preference for mobile as a way to access the internet.

As Sims explained, the availability of WiFi services is also facilitating the use of mobile services and further improvements are anticipated with the deployment of 5G.

The ACCC will commence consultation with an issues paper and will release a draft of its findings for comment prior to completing the market study in 2017.