Telcos forced to open up high-speed broadband networks

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Telcos forced to open up high-speed broadband networks

ACCC introduces new regulation.

TPG and Telstra will be forced to open up their high-speed broadband networks to retail service providers under a new ACCC access declaration.

Following an inquiry of almost two years, the ACCC has decided the superfast broadband access service (SBAS) will be in place for five years, to provide RSPs access to non-NBN fixed-line networks that have a downstream data rate of more than 25Mbps.

The access declaration covers TPG's FTTB network, operated by its AAPT subsidiary, as well as Telstra's fibre networks in South Brisbane and its so-called Velocity FTTP estates.

A declared service requires network operators to open their networks to retail providers upon request.

The SBAS applies to all Layer 2 superfast broadband services, with the exception of the NBN, those subject to other access declarations, or those where competition isn't an issue (like business services in a capital city CBD).

The ACCC started inquiring into whether VDSL2 over copper should be a declared and regulated service in September 2014, after being concerned about the impact on competition from the proposed use of vectoring noise cancellation to prevent interference between copper line pairs in a cable sheath.

"Vectoring is only effective if there is one network provider operating all the copper lines within a cable," the ACCC said at the time.

"This could give rise to competition concerns if providers were to install vectored VDSL2 equipment in multi-dwelling buildings without providing access to other retail services providers on competitive terms."

ACCC chairman Rod Sims today said the SBAS was needed to allow all RSPs to "compete on their relative merits, regardless of the technology used, when the network was constructed, or who operates it".

“This is an acknowledgment that all superfast broadband networks, regardless of their size, display natural monopoly characteristics. What this access declaration does is provide retailers with the opportunity to enter superfast broadband markets, and in turn increase competition,” he said in a statement.

The competition watchdog is now turning its attention to pricing and terms of access for SBAS-regulated networks.

It has set interim pricing and terms for the next 12 months while it undertakes a public inquiry into the matter, using the NBN and other similar networks as a benchmark.

Charges start from $22.14 per port per month and $29.27 per Mbps per month for access to Telstra SBAS networks, and $27 per port per month and $17.50 per Mbps per month for TPG and other networks.

TPG's VDSL network (operated by its iiNet subsidiary) and its regional Victoria HFC network are exempt from the requirements for the meantime, so the telco can make the necessary changes to the network to facilitate SBAS compliance.

The ACCC said Telstra must provide access to SBAS networks from now, but doesn't require it to make any changes to the networks given they will be handed over to the NBN in the future.

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