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Meet the new NBN boss, same as the old copper boss

Despite Australia spending decades moving away from a monopoly telecommunications provider, Telstra remains dominant in NBN services while the network appears stuck at 25Mbps.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

On Friday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its first quarterly report on the NBN wholesale market, and revealed the extent of the grip Telstra continues to hold over Australian telecommunications.

For fixed-line connections on the NBN, the only segment where the former monopoly provider is not the majority player is in fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) connections, although it only just missed out on that label.

(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

In FttP at the end of March, Telstra had 47.4 percent of the wholesale market, followed by TPG on 29.2 percent, Optus with 14.6 percent, M2 Group on 5.9 percent, and other ISPs with 2.9 percent.

For fibre-to-the-basement (FttB) connections, Telstra held 53.5 percent, TPG was on 23.2 percent, Optus sat at 5.1 percent, and others claimed 0.3 percent.

Telstra's most dominant segment was fibre-to-the-node (FttN) connections, where it claimed 58.4 percent of the market, TPG held 16.8 percent, Optus was not far behind on 16.6 percent, M2 picked up 6.6 percent, and others held 1.7 percent of the wholesale market.

Overall, the ACCC reported on 761,557 FttP, 7,649 FttB, and 36,190 FttN services.

The pattern of Telstra dominance, TPG in second, and Optus in third continued for the 100,958 fixed-wireless services examined, with each company picking up 56.7 percent, 16.9 percent, and 9.7 percent, respectively. In fourth place, with 6.5 percent of the wholesale fixed-wireless market, was Aussie Broadband, while others accounted for 10.2 percent.

Satellite was the only technology segment to escape Telstra's grip, with no presence reported for the 34,881 interim satellite services. Instead, SkyMesh grabbed the top spot, with 28.6 percent share, Australian Private Networks nabbed 27.4 percent, TPG claimed 15.9 percent, Harbour ISP stood at 8 percent, Bordernet scored 7.5 percent, and Australian National Telecom had 5 percent. Others accounted for 7.5 percent.

On the speed tier front, the ACCC report showed that the vast majority of services are either 25Mbps download with 5Mbps upload connection speeds, or 12/1Mbps services. The only other tier to crack the 100,000 services mark was 100/40Mbps.

NBN speed tier breakdown
(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

The ACCC noted that for FttN/B services that are labelled as 25-50Mbps or 25-100Mbps, they are counted as 50Mbps and 100Mbps, respectively, in this report.

TPG was highlighted by the ACCC as having the most services over 50Mbps, sitting at 57,624, which was followed by Telstra, on 50,745, and Optus, on 32,881.

NBN ISP speed breakdown
(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

The Competitive Carriers Coalition (CCC), an organisation of several Australian non-dominant telcos, said the trend of Telstra dominance would continue when Telstra's hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network is added to the NBN.

"The HFC deal bypasses the special rules to protect competition that apply in the parts of the NBN using fibre or even copper," a CCC spokesman said. "The only protections are those that are contained in the still-secret contract between NBN and Telstra -- protections that the ACCC has already said are inadequate.

"The ACCC has already said it is concerned those protections need to be tougher."

As the CCC points out, the longer a particular technology has been operating for, such as FttP, the lower Telstra's market share is. So it will be interesting to see at what point Telstra's share starts to decline in the newer FttB/N markets.

Until then, though, the NBN market looks a lot like the one it was supposed to replace, and Telstra still looms large over it.

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