Feedback sought on draft review of Mobile Access Termination Service

The Commerce Commission is seeking feedback on its draft review findings that the Mobile Access Termination Service (MTAS) should remain regulated.

“The purpose of the 5-yearly review of MTAS is to determine whether we think there is merit in taking a deeper look at removing some of the regulation around mobile services,” said Head of Telecommunications Simon Thomson.

A Mobile Network Operator (MNO) uses the MTAS services to allow its customers to communicate with the customers of another network. These include voice calls from mobile phones or landlines, and text messages (SMS).

MTAS services are currently price regulated to ensure consumers can access affordable calling and SMS regardless of which MNO they are with.

“While early indications show that there may be reasonable grounds to commence an investigation into removing SMS regulation due to the popularity of competing over-the-top messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, our preliminary view is that regulation of MTAS for voice calls remains important due to a lack of competitive alternatives,” said Mr Thomson.

“The MTAS service has been considered as a whole in the current review, and at this time, we believe that there are not reasonable grounds to commence an investigation into removing MTAS regulation whilst acknowledging we have the option to look at the voice and SMS services separately should we choose to before the next 5-year review.”

Feedback on the draft review is due by 1 July 2020 with a final decision due by 23 September 2020.

Background

Mobile Termination Access Service (MTAS) is a wholesale service supplied by a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) which allows customers on other networks to communicate (either by way of a voice call or SMS) with customers of that MNO.

Before MTAS became regulated, each MNO had significantly cheaper prices for calls and SMS on its own network compared to those going to a customer of a different network. These higher prices created a barrier to a new MNO attracting customers to its network. In June 2010 the Commission recommended to the Minster of Communications that MTAS be regulated with set prices to even the playing field.

MTAS became a designated service in Schedule 1 of the Act on 23 September 2010. Clause 1(3) of Schedule 3 of the Act requires that the Commission consider, at intervals of not more than 5 years after the date on which a designated service or specified service comes into force, whether there are reasonable grounds for commencing an investigation into whether the service should be omitted from Schedule 1 of the Act. The last review was completed in September 2015.

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