PIPE opposes NBN entering mobile backhaul market

Fibre backhaul provider PIPE networks has rejected suggestions NBN Co could help provide backhaul for mobile networks, saying it will damage the fibre backhaul industry.

NBN Co using the reach of its fibre network to provide backhaul to commercial mobile companies would be detrimental to competition, PIPE Networks has argued.

The fourth report from the joint parliamentary committee examining the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout flagged the possibility of NBN Co making its tower and backhaul infrastructure available to mobile telcos such as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to improve regional mobile coverage. It is also something Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said would be a key component of the Coalition's NBN policy released last week.

But existing fibre backhaul provider PIPE has objected to NBN Co getting involved in its industry, saying it would be bad for competition.

"Intervention in this market by a taxpayer-funded entity such as NBN Co will reduce network extension by existing and emerging private fibre providers to the detriment of the industry, the market and the end users," the company argued in its submission to the committee.

PIPE said that its network extensions are often reliant on securing a big tenant to use that backhaul, such as the 2010 deal PIPE signed with Vodafone.

But while PIPE is against the proposal, Vodafone itself has said the proposal "should be pursued as a matter of priority".

"NBN could significantly improve the business case for coverage expansion through offering a lower cost backhaul option," Vodafone's general manager of industry and public policy Matthew Lobb said.

"In addition to enabling mobile expansion, this would also signficantly improve the business case for NBN by adding an additional revenue stream through the use of its fibre network for mobile backhaul.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy noted that the telcos were free to seek access to NBN Co's tower infrastructure, and said NBN Co was already in talks with the carriers around accessing their sites that are under construction. But the department said it had not decided whether to fund a program to improve mobile coverage.

"The government will review the impact of the NBN fixed-wireless network on improving mobile coverage in regional areas before making any commitments to fund a new program to extend mobile coverage," the department stated.