Rapid consolidation in the 2nd tier market
The 2nd tier market
Developments in this market have been dominated by industry consolidation, a process that is set to continue over coming years. Moving towards a structurally separated regulatory environment with a NBN at the horizon, size really does matter.
The other important development has been Telstra’s aggressive activities to increase its market share, particularly in the mobile and broadband sectors. This has been detrimental to a number of 2nd tier players, as has been reflected in their declining revenue in 2013. Nevertheless, there was an overall recovery in total revenue among these players in 2013, reflecting the benefits of scale brought about by market consolidation. Overal revenue for these operators, of about $3.9 billion, still accounts for less than 10% of the total telecoms market in Australia.
The NBN, and in particular the structural separation between infrastructure and services, is going to change the telecoms industry beyond recognition. Gone will be the days of regulatory gaming. A completely new industry structure will require collaboration and cooperation, rather than the destructive adversarial environment of the past.
However, before that open market is established, Telstra will still dominate the current market structure, and with its NBN bounty has deep pockets to invest in new opportunities. Another question is whether the design of the NBN will lead to true wholesale competition; or will it restrict this to a handful of players who can afford to build their presence in the 121 points of interconnect? This could well prove to be a critical strategic mistake.
The ACCC who approved this has already indicated that this will be one of the main areas it will be monitoring. The unique construction that offers backhaul competition could indeed be the facilitator in obtaining the competitive outcome needed to ensure that a dynamic system is developed which will lead to innovation.
Industry collaboration will also be needed to limit the necessity for more regulation. In a dynamic environment time is money and there is no longer room for year-long regulatory processes. Trust needs to be built up to facilitate much speedier dispute resolution, preferably preventing these disputes from arising in the first place. Some early indications are that NBN Co is willing to sit down and make changes where it makes sense to create a better wholesale and retail environment for all involved.
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