TPG's access stoush could harm NBN alternative plans

Megaport founder Bevan Slattery has claimed that TPG is denying its competitors access to Pipe Networks' datacentres in a move that could have ramifications for TPG's fibre-to-the-basement plans.

Pipe Networks co-founder and now CEO of Asia-Pacific network interconnection company Megaport, Bevan Slattery has taken the new owners of his former company to task over claims that TPG is denying its competitors access to Pipe's datacentres.

TPG took over dark fibre provider Pipe Networks in 2010, when shareholders approved the AU$373 million takeover bid. Shortly afterwards, Slattery resigned from his role as CEO of the company, and subsequently went on to found Megaport.

In a blog post yesterday, Slattery told the company's customers that it had suspended taking new orders into Pipe's datacentres in Brisbane and Fortitude Valley in Queensland because TPG had been claiming that Pipe's customers, such as Megaport, were not occupiers of the datacentre, and therefore could not use Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act to access the datacentres.

"If accepted, this argument would mean that Pipe's datacentres could become 'competition-free zones', and TPG can (and evidently will) prevent Pipe's telehousing customers from ordering services from competitive carriers such as Megaport," he said.

Megaport had asked the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to provide information on Pipe's underground duct facilities as required by Schedule 1 of the Telecommunications Act. Slattery said that TPG's actions could impact TPG's own access to other datacentres. He said that TPG had referred the matter to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) to make a determination.

Slattery noted that TPG will likely be relying on Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act to install its equipment in the basements of buildings across the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth, where the company is planning to hook up fibre-to-the-building services for 500,000 units.

"Regardless, we view TPG/Pipe's objection as without merit, and preventing Pipe's customers from acquiring telecommunications services from a competitor of Pipe," Slattery said.

The move to block access to Pipe's facilities comes in stark contrast to Pipe's own actions around using Schedule 3 to access buildings to install its own infrastructure. The company has previously taken issue with building owners denying access to telecommunications providers and seeking to push them into a licence agreement whereby the telcos often end up paying high rents for the privilege.

Pipe last year won a landmark access case against Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation to install a cable in the company's Collins Street, Melbourne, building for its tenant, Macquarie Bank.

Slattery said TPG's actions should be even more concerning, given its recent AU$450 million acquisition of AAPT and its fibre network infrastructure. The ramifications could be felt much wider and by many more in the industry if TPG applies the same behaviour to AAPT as it has to Pipe, he said.

"AAPT and Pipe are the leading providers of infrastructure-based competitive wholesale services in the Australian market," he said.

ZDNet approached TPG for comment yesterday, but has not received a response.

A spokesperson for the ACMA told ZDNet that it had yet to receive a complaint, but Slattery clarified that it was being delivered via mail.