Australia’s telecommunications industry operates in an environment of full and open competition. Entry to all telecommunications markets is open with minimal entry and ongoing operational requirements.
What types of telecommunications operators are there?
There are two main groups of operators:
- carriers—those who operate key telecommunications facilities
- service providers—those who use carriers’ facilities to provide phone, Internet services and/or content services, such as Pay TV, to the public.
Foreign ownership in the industry is subject to the general provisions of the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975. The exception is Telstra. Under the Telstra Corporation Act 1991, only 35% of Telstra shares can be owned by foreign interests.
Who regulates competition?
The two regulators are:
- the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for competition matters under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The ACCC can take action if carriers engage in anti-competitive conduct, breach record-keeping rules, or don’t meet access rules
- the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for technical and other matters (such as carrier and service provider licensing, and number portability) under the Telecommunications Act 1997.
There are special rules for carriers and carriage service providers with substantial market power. Under Part XIB of the Competition and Consumer Act, if the ACCC considers one of this type of service provider has engaged in anti-competitive conduct, it can issue it with a notice. The ACCC can then take the matter to court to seek a financial penalty or other remedy. Anyone else affected by the anti-competitive behaviour can seek compensation from the service provider at fault.
- Competition and Consumer Act Part XIB—The Telecommunications Industry: Anti-competitive conduct and record-keeping rules
Access to Services
Under Part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act, the ACCC can 'declare' a service. Providers then have to provide access to enable other providers to compete. Standard access obligations are in Section 152AR in the Competition and Consumer Act.
The other pro-competitive safeguards
Other measures to promote competition include:
- Pre-selection of service providers and call-by-call override of preselection
- independent management and allocation of telephone numbers
- number portability requirements
- competitively neutral technical regulation of interfaces and networks generally.
These are set out in the Telecommunications Act 1997. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMCA) oversees these measures.
- Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
The ACMA is responsible for regulating telecommunications, broadcasting and radiocommunications in Australia, providing information on consumer issues, standards and compliance, emergency services, numbering, mobile phone matters and important legislation.
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
The ACCC is an independent statutory authority responsible for competition and consumer affairs regulation in Australia, including telecommunications.
- Communications Alliance
The Communications Alliance is an industry owned, resourced and operated company to manage self-regulation of communications within Australia.
- Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
The FCC is the United States authority for regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
- Office of Communications (OfCom)
OfCom is the United Kingdom regulator for telecommunications.
- European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union responsible for legislation and decision making in Europe including telecommunications matters.
- The Commerce Commission
The Commerce Commission is New Zealand's competition enforcement and regulatory agency.