5G fight: NBN is on its own

Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Australia’s competition watchdog has a clear message to the NBN for its upcoming battle against 5G: You’re on your own.

In a speech to the RadComms 2018 conference, ACCC chair Rod Sims warned against protecting or shielding the NBN from competitive pressure from 5G, saying it would be a “disaster for consumers”.

Mr Sims that 5G networks will soon be able to offer a product that is a viable alternative to the NBN’s fixed-line offering.

“As 5G networks will be able to transport significantly more data traffic than previous mobile networks, it is anticipated that mobile broadband services may become more of a viable substitute for fixed broadband,” Mr Sims said.

And this is positive development for consumers, he said.

“The NBN is a monopoly wholesale network so we should strongly welcome it facing competition. There is an opportunity for wireless operators to attract those consumers who don’t necessarily want the high speeds and unlimited data offered by fixed service providers.

“For consumers at lower price points, with small data needs, a wireless service might suit better than the NBN.

“We are always to see offers in the market match consumers demand and anything that delivers to the services that consumers want at the prices they are happy to pay is welcome news to us.”

NBN boss Bill Morrow has previously said that unless the network is protected from competition from 5G services it will never make a profit.

“The government has two options: to regulate to protect this model, or to realise that the NBN won’t have the finances it thought and might require some off-budget monies to go in to make it happen,” Mr Morrow said last year.

 Mr Sims has rejected these calls for regulation or a levy on home 5G services

“We will need to wait and see what happens when 5G becomes widely available and how markets react. What we must never do, however, is seek to restrain others in order to protect the NBN business model. This would be a disaster for consumers,” he said.

Competition in the sector will deliver better services for consumers, he said.

“We know that 5G is going to lower the cost of delivering data, but those changes will be accompanied by large capital and operating costs; operators will need to acquire new spectrum, densify their networks by building more mobile towers, and make sure their transmission can support delivery of new services,” Mr Sims said.

“Competition will drive this investment. It can be the catalyst for innovation and can see operators build wider, better networks, to provide higher quality services,” he said.

“However, investment costs can be significant, and if we want to see more competitors in mobiles we need to think carefully about how to best achieve sustainable competition and minimise barriers to entry.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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