The Commerce Commission has decided not to start an investigation into whether national mobile roaming should be deregulated.
Roaming regulation requires the country’s three mobile network operators—2degrees, Spark, and Vodafone—to provide wholesale access to their networks for a period of time to any new mobile network operator.
This allows a new operator to attract customers by being able to offer immediate nationwide coverage while it builds its own network.
“We believe the roaming opportunity remains relevant because it could help any new mobile business enter the market in the future, as it did when 2degrees launched. Submissions we received on this decision generally supported this view,” Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale says.
Under the Telecommunications Act, the Commission is required once every five years to consider the deregulation of certain services, including national mobile roaming.
The roaming provision in the Telecommunications Act requires the country’s three mobile network operators – Spark, Vodafone and 2Degrees – to provide wholesale access to their networks for a period of time to any new mobile network operator.
Network operators are only required to provide access to a new operator meeting certain conditions; including having a network of at least 100 cell sites or having a network that covers at least 10% of the New Zealand population, and having a rollout plan for at least 65% population coverage. National roaming regulation does not regulate wholesale access for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
In the final decision report, the Commission notes that Spark and Vodafone suggested co-location as an alternative to roaming but this was refused with the Commission quoting a 2013 report.
“Roaming provides the entrant with the ability to offer, at launch, mobile services beyond its initial network reach, and this ability to offer national coverage is generally accepted as being an important feature of a mobile service. Co-location relates to the gradual deployment of the entrant’s network. As a result, in the short term, co-location is not likely to be a substitute for roaming, as roaming offers immediate coverage.”
5G was also discussed, with Spark and Vodafone looking to restrict the roaming agreement to 4G, but the Commission’s report stated, “This is a technology neutral service.”
The final decision was to leave the roaming regulations unchanged with the report saying, “On balance, having considered the submissions received on our preliminary view, the Commission’s final view is that there are not reasonable grounds to commence a Schedule 3 investigation into whether to omit the National Roaming service from Schedule 1 of the Act at this time. National Roaming remains a relevant service for competition in mobile telecommunications markets.”