ACCC has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Telstra to ensure that its sites in low band spectrum will not interfere with Optus’ 5G network expansion.
ACCC said that Telstra’s registrations of sites had the substantial purpose or likely effect of preventing or hindering Optus from deployment of its 5G network and from engaging in competitive conduct in the mobile market.
Telstra will deregister all remaining sites it registered with the ACMA in the 900 MHz spectrum band in January 2022 that would have prevented Optus from early access to the spectrum.
“Telstra’s undertaking will ensure Optus is not hindered from expanding its 5G rollout, giving Australians access to a choice of 5G services in regional and metropolitan Australia,” ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver said in a news statement.
“Telstra’s registration of 315 sites in the 900 MHz spectrum band had the substantial purpose or likely effect of lessening competition by Optus, as Telstra knew of the importance of this spectrum band to Optus’ 5G rollout plan.”
A copy of the undertaking is available at Telstra Corporation Limited.
Telstra, Optus and TPG hold licences granted by the ACMA under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to use spectrum to provide mobile services.
Low-band spectrum such as 900 MHz has the ability to transmit over greater distances and is typically used by mobile network operators to provide core network coverage and capacity.
Telstra holds a licence for parts of the 900 MHz band until 30 June 2024. Before 31 January 2022, Telstra was making little use of the spectrum and had not registered a new site since 2016.
In December 2021, the ACMA held an auction for licences in the 850 and 900 MHz spectrum and Optus was the successful bidder for all of the 900 MHz spectrum on offer.
On 9 December 2021, Telstra became aware that the ACMA would consider early access applications for the 900 MHz band spectrum.
On 31 January 2022, Telstra registered 315 sites in the 900 MHz band, predominantly located in major cities or inner regional areas, under its existing licence. Of the 315 sites registered by Telstra on 31 January 2022, Telstra later deregistered 153, and 162 remain registered. Since January, Telstra has only used a limited number of these sites.
The undertaking provides a process for Telstra to deregister certain sites that were registered on 31 January 2022 and remain registered as at the date of the undertaking. This will facilitate Optus’ ability to apply to the ACMA for early access to 900 MHz spectrum to roll out its 5G network more broadly, giving consumers more choice over mobile services.