The government should remember that Optus and Vodafone are international companies competing with the majority-Australian owned Telstra before it thinks about forcing Telstra to open up its mobile network, CEO David Thodey has said.
Late last week it had been reported that Telstra may consider "taking action" against the government if it decided to force the telco to open up its mobile network in regional and remote locations to rivals Optus and Vodafone.
Today, Thodey told journalists that he was "vehemently opposed" to regulation in the mobile sector because it was a competitive industry, and that Telstra was competing against two mobile network operators owned by foreign entities — Optus by the Singaporean SingTel, and Vodafone by the Hong Kong-based Hutchison and UK-based Vodafone Group — that would have the power to pump further investment in their own networks.
"We compete against global companies, and not local companies, and I think that's important for any regulator to look at," he said.
"We have 1.4 million Australian shareholders who put their own money into this company, and they should get a reward."
Thodey said that if he felt the regulation was "unjustified" then Telstra would take action to protect the interest of its shareholders.
At the same time, however, he said that in a similar vein to Australian airline Qantas' recent lobbying to the Commonwealth Government to lift the cap on its foreign ownership, the foreign ownership rule on Telstra should be reviewed.
"Over time, as the nation moves to NBN... I think it should be reviewed."
Telstra is currently renegotiating with NBN Co to allow the government to implement its proposed new policy for the national broadband project that would see parts of Telstra's existing copper lines used to connect homes via fibre-to-the-node technology. Thodey said it was too early to comment on the renegotiations but said that Telstra was not seeking any more money from the existing AU$11 billion deal.
"All we can say is it is our intent to support NBN Co in any way that we can. I've said we'll honor the contracts we have, and as [Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull] said: not a dollar more; not a dollar less," he said.
But added that "incremental work" would be negotiated on "commercial terms".