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ACCC makes final call on mobile charge

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has held firm on its stance of dropping the rate that mobile companies pay to connect calls between different networks.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has held firm on its stance of dropping the rate that mobile companies pay to connect calls between different networks.

The ACCC regulates the price that telcos charge one another for fixed line and mobile calls made over each others' networks, known as the domestic mobile terminating access service (MTAS). The charge is incurred against the telco of the user originating the call. It first became a declared service in 2004 and the price was set at 21 cents per minute, but has been reduced over time to the current rate of 9 cents per minute.

The competition watchdog announced a draft determination for the price of the terminating access service in September, following a review in June that said the cost will drop from 9 cents per minute to 6 cents per minute from 1 January 2012, and then drop again on 1 January 2014 to 3.6 cents per minute.

Both Optus and Vodafone had opposed the new rate, saying that the drop in cost would ultimately benefit Telstra as it's unlikely the telco will pass through the new pricing for fixed-to-mobile calls and therefore customers won't benefit from the change.

Vodafone has previously said that Telstra had gained about $1.1 billion between 2004 and 2010 by not passing on MTAS savings to consumers.

However, despite the telcos' concerns, the ACCC has remained with its price determination, saying that the prices represented a conservative assessment of the costs of providing the MTAS.

"There has been significant change to the mobiles industry since the current pricing principles were issued in 2009," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. "The ACCC considers that the price reductions reflect efficient costs and provide regulatory certainty for the industry over the next two and a half years."

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