Thursday, 16 May 2019 11:43

Mobile services competition alive and well in NZ: report

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Mobile services competition alive and well in NZ: report Image Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Competition in New Zealand’s mobile services market is trending in the right direction, with pricing, coverage and choice of services a positive for consumers, according to a new report from the country’s competition enforcement agency.

According to the Commerce Commission Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale, a competition indicators study reveals that the trend is positive for consumers, with New Zealand’s three established mobile network operators and all performing well on most measures of quality.

“According to Opensignal, New Zealand currently ranks 8th out of 88 countries for 4G speed. Further, mobile service prices are generally lower than OECD averages, and consumers tell us they find it easy to compare plans and switch providers,” Dr Gale said.

“However, there is room for improvement in some areas. Prices for large data plans are noticeably higher than Australia and while mobile data use grew 69% last year, reliable 4G coverage is not so widespread. Information on performance measures like call dropping rates and coverage gaps is also hard to find.”

The Commission says that the study found that while consumers consider switching providers to be a reasonably simple process, there is “currently some inertia” when it comes to switching.

And the Commission says it has begun further work to better understand the impact of this inertia on consumers.

Dr Gale said the key challenge for competition in the future is the allocation of spectrum.

“Spectrum is a key cost for the three network operators: Vodafone, Spark, and 2Degrees.

“Imbalances in spectrum holdings between operators — across all bands — can affect competition. Our view is that, in its design of future spectrum allocation processes, MBIE should have wholesale and retail competition matters at the forefront of decisions.”

The Commission says competition is emerging for network operators to sell wholesale services, and this allows ‘virtual’ operators such as Vocus and The Warehouse to sell mobile services to consumers, without having to build their own mobile network.

“We see no need to regulate at this stage but will keep an eye on the ability of new ‘virtual’ operators to access wholesale services. We expect more spectrum and consumer engagement will help this market to develop where it is commercially viable,” Dr Gale said.

“Overall the study found that consumers are more satisfied with mobile than with fixed line services, but there is still room to improve. We will continue to focus on consumers as part of our telco retail service quality work.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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