Regulation of wholesale mobile voice services should continue

2 May 2019

Australia’s domestic Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) for voice services should be regulated for a further five years, the ACCC has proposed in a draft report released for consultation today.

The ACCC is also proposing that regulation of the MTAS for SMS services not continue, due to increased competition from messaging services like iMessage and WhatsApp.

The MTAS is a wholesale service that allows consumers on different mobile networks to make calls or send SMS to each other. The ACCC has regulated the MTAS since 2014 to ensure calls can be made, and SMS can be sent, between consumers on all mobile phone networks.

In August 2018, the ACCC launched a public inquiry examining whether the current regulation, or declaration, of voice and SMS MTAS should be revoked, extended or varied after it expires on 30 June, 2019.

The ACCC now proposes to continue the declaration of voice services, while removing regulation of the SMS termination service.

“Many consumers with smartphones are now using over-the-top messaging services such as iMessage and WhatsApp as alternatives to SMS. Importantly, we have also found that the majority of mobile plans now on offer in the market offer unlimited SMS,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Our decision to regulate SMS appears to have had the desired effect. We are therefore proposing to remove regulation of MTAS for SMS services as we do not think continued regulation is necessary to promote competition.”

“However, over-the-top voice services are not yet substitutes for mobile voice calls as they do not offer the same quality or access to services such as Triple Zero,” Mr Sims said. “We are therefore proposing to continue declaration of MTAS for voice services.”

Interested stakeholders are invited to provide a submission to the draft report by 31 May 2019. More information on the MTAS and the ACCC’s draft report is available at Mobile terminating access service declaration review 2018 – 2019.

Background

The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 requires the ACCC to review the current MTAS declaration in the 18 months before it expires on 30 June 2019.

MTAS is a wholesale service which mobile network operators offer each other so that voice calls and SMS originated on different networks can be connected. It is provided by a mobile network operator to connect or ‘terminate’ a call or SMS on its network. The network originating the call (whether fixed or mobile) pays the network receiving the call or SMS for the MTAS.

The originating network recovers the costs of the MTAS in the retail price it charges its customers for providing the call.

Release number: 
63/19
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