Vocus submits to unblock neutral-host projects
Vocus is asking the government to relax rules it believes block neutral-host mobile infrastructure providers from securing funding under federal programs such as the mobile blackspots scheme.
In a parliamentary submission [pdf], the telco particularly called out a requirement to have a written commitment from a national mobile network operator (MNO) to use carrier-neutral infrastructure, in advance of it being built.
The requirement appears to be about ensuring government funds aren’t used to finance mobile infrastructure that no carriers want to use.
But Vocus said the requirement did not take into account the dynamics of the sector, and “should be removed”.
“MNIPs [mobile network infrastructure providers] should not be required to commercially contract with MNOs which are likely to be competing with them in applying for funding,” Vocus said.
“While the proposed approach is designed to avoid any risk of new infrastructure being left unused by an MNO, it does not take into account the market power dynamics of the mobile industry which has resulted in no successful multi-carrier, neutral-host, or active sharing models being deployed in the Australian market to date.
“The success of neutral-host infrastructure sharing trials has been hampered by one or more MNOs refusing to participate,” it added.
Neutral host models – where a provider deploys infrastructure that multiple telcos can use to serve customers – are increasingly being raised in government policy announcements, particularly for regional areas.
Vocus argued that MNIPs are incentivised to build infrastructure that multiple telcos would want.
“It is in their commercial interest to have more than one MNO utilise the infrastructure,” Vocus said.
“These incentives are also aligned with consumers’ interests in having a choice of providers, as MNIPs will look for sites with coverage gaps for more than one MNO to maximise their commercial returns.”
Vocus said government funding programs needed to be re-geared to favour infrastructure that served more than one telco’s customers.
“Government funding should be allocated in a manner that maximises the likelihood of it being used to extend coverage for at least two, and ideally three, networks – rather than one,” Vocus said.
“Vocus submits that public funds should be used efficiently, for the public good – not private gain.”
Vocus also suggested carving out certain zones where neutral-host models would be favoured, and alternatively imposing open-access requirements on mobile sites “constructed with public funds”.