ACCC towers inquiry open for submissions

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ACCC towers inquiry open for submissions

Asks if industry restructure good for services.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into regional mobile tower access is accepting submissions from the public until 5 August.

The inquiry was announced in March by the previous government, to encourage infrastructure sharing between tower owners.

The inquiry comes amid a widespread consolidation of tower ownership, as carriers sell off the passive infrastructure of their mobile networks.

Singtel set the ball rolling in October last year, selling 70 percent of its Australian Tower Network (which provides infrastructure for the Optus network) to AustralianSuper for $1.9 billion.

In May, TPG sold its towers and rooftop sites to OMERS Infrastructure Management for $950 million, and Telstra followed suit in June, selling 49 percent of its towers to a consortium of Australian Government Future Fund, Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation and Sunsuper for $2.8 billion.

Last Friday, the ACCC published its consultation paper for the inquiry.

When the inquiry was announced, the ACCC said its focus is on the costs of tower space, commercial and regulatory arrangements associated with tower access, as well as the interplace between the tower market and regional mobile services.

The consultation paper also seeks views on the impact of the mobile network owners divesting their infrastructure on costs and regulatory arrangements.

The regulator pointed out that the ROI on regional investment is marginal, and there are “limited incentives outside government subsidisation to improve either reliability or depth of coverage in many areas”.

The ACCC notes that tower access arrangements are generally private between the infrastructure owner and their customer, meaning “there is little publicly available information on the commercial and other fee arrangements for access”. 

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