Macquarie Telecom has accusing Telstra of misusing its market power to lock regional consumers and businesses into "sub-standard" services in a complaint it submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today.
According to Macquarie Telecom, Telstra has engaged in anti-competitive conduct by using its market dominance in regional areas to effectively limit consumers' choice of mobile providers.
The complaint accuses Telstra of refusing to supply wholesale services in areas where it has a monopoly mobile network, refusing to offer 4G services to wholesale customers, forcing wholesale customers to impose more restrictive data caps on their customers than it applies itself, and manipulating the market by having its own retail businesses oversee and approve wholesale contracts.
According to Macquarie Telecom, Telstra has been supplying wholesale mobile services only in locations where its mobile competitors were already operating, and "denying regional consumers any choice at all in other locations".
For Macquarie Telecom's national executive for industry and policy, Matt Healy, the market behaviour of which his company has accused Telstra has heavily limited the services of the packages it offers its business and corporate customers.
"It has an effect of limiting the addressable market of Macquarie Telecom," Healy, told ZDNet. "Some of our corporate customers have in services in regional areas, and without adequate coverage there, it's difficult to compete with a full range of services.
"Corporate packages encompass mobile services and data networks, and we're well priced across the full bundle, but the weak link is the mobile coverage in the regional areas. Consumers are being kept away from competitors like Macquarie and are being forced to take Telstra's mobile and data hosting instead, because it’s in the bundle.
"Telstra's dominance of mobile markets has increased in recent years, and it uses this dominance to prevent competition from gaining a foothold in fixed line and corporate markets as well as by bundling services together," he said.
According to Healy, the non-competitive behaviour Macquarie Telecom has accused Telstra of engaging has taken place at a time when the Federal Government plans to spend AU$100 million to fill coverage gaps in regional mobile markets.
"Telstra will no doubt have its hand out for more taxpayer freebies, but its contempt for regional Australians is on full display in its behaviour in wholesale markets," he said.
According to Telstra, however, the Australian mobiles market is competitive and has plenty of choice for consumers, with three network operators, along with many more retailers competing on coverage, service, technology, and price.
"We have invested billions of dollars building Australia's largest mobile network and delivering the latest technologies to our customers across the country, including in regional and rural Australia." said a Telstra spokesperson. "No company has done more to provide telecommunications services to regional Australia and we offer uniform national pricing, so people in the bush enjoy the same prices as people in the city."
"We have a strong wholesale mobiles business. We supply wholesale services to 12 MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) customers and we continue to invest in our platform and offering," the spokesperson said.