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NBN wholesale market remains concentrated – ACCC needs to be vigilant

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released data on wholesale access to the NBN in their second quarterly NBN Wholesale Market Indicators Report

The data, based on the June quarter, give a snapshot of the concentration of connections to the NBN by access seekers, who may provide retail services directly to consumers, or on-sell that access to retail-only providers.  It should be noted that concentration in a market doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of competition – higher concentration merely means that there is greater scope for anti-competitive behaviour.

At the end of June, there were around 1.136 million connections to the NBN, compared to around 941,000 connections at the end of March.

Telstra, with around 48.3 per cent of active NBN connections is the dominant player in the wholesale market, with TPG (26.1 per cent) and Optus (13.6 per cent) a long way behind. Indeed, Telstra has slightly increased its market share since the first quarterly data were released in April 2016.

There are some variations by State/Territory but Telstra is the dominant NBN Access Seeker in all parts of the country.  It's dominance is particularly marked in Queensland (55.4 per cent) and South Australia/Northern Territory (51.7 per cent). TPG has gained greater market share in WA though, with 39.1 per cent of active connections, compared to 43.7 per cent for Telstra.  It should be noted though that these exclude Satellite Access Services.

Telstra is also more dominant in regional areas and outer metropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas.  Including Satellite Access Services, Telstra has nearly 53 per cent of all active connections in regional areas, compared to 50.3 per cent in outer metropolitan areas and 41.2 per cent in metropolitan areas.  TPG has around 32 per cent of active connections in metropolitan regions but only 20.5 per cent in outer metro regions and 22.3 per cent in regional areas. 

Optus has close to 19.5 per cent in both metro and outer metro areas, but less than 11 per cent in regional areas.  It is worth noting that smaller access seekers make up around 7.7 per cent of the regional market yet less than 2 per cent in metro and outer metro regions respectively.  Telstra’s share of active connections in regional areas has largely come at the expense of the smaller players in the market, who have not only seen their share of the market decline, but also seen a fall in the number of connections in a growing market overall.

These data show that it is vital for the ACCC to keep a close eye on the NBN wholesale market to ensure that one company’s dominance doesn’t limit affordable access to the internet, particularly in regional areas.

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