The competition watchdog issued a statement detailing its position after Telstra and Hutchison 3GA on 6 December said they had signed binding agreements to jointly own and operate 3G radio access network infrastructure.
ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel indicated in a statement a change in tune from Telstra and Hutchison over third-party access to the joint network had played a key part in the decision.
"The ACCC ... noted that, contrary to earlier indications from the parties, the arrangements now enable both Telstra and Hutchison to separately provide wholesale and roaming services to other service providers, after initial development phases in the agreement".
"While the agreement may ultimately reduce the extent of infrastructure-based competition between 3G mobile network operators that might otherwise have occurred in the future, the ACCC believes the arrangement has the potential to save 3G mobile operators significant costs and avoid the unnecessary duplication of mobile network infrastructure," Samuel said.
"In turn, this should enable the faster deployment of 3G mobile networks to more parts of the country sooner".
The competition regulator said it had paid particular attention to aspects of the arrangement that:
- ensure both Telstra and Hutchison will retail their freedom to compete in retail markets for mobile telephony services;
- limit the extent of infrastructure-sharing between the parties and;
- limit the scope for parties to share commercially sensitive information about their customers and their retail operations.
Samuel said the competition watchdog was also close to finalising its assessment of a separate 3G mobile radio access network infrastructure sharing arrangement between Optus and Vodafone.