Monday 22 May 2017

The state of telco play - 2017

We pay too much attention to bad stuff, so here's some good news that has come out of the Commerce Commission's latest annual report on the state of the telco markets (media release here, quick infographic here, whole thing here).

Speeds are up. Congestion is down. Value for money is better. Prices generally compare well with other countries. Competition is working. Investment is high, with a big slab of dollars going into the rollout of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre project. And even though the telco team at the Commission don't say so in the report, I'd give them credit for helping to make this happen.

There are lots of ways to illustrate the good stuff: here's just one, on fixed line broadband, which speaks for itself.

As I said in my piece on last year's equivalent report, the Commission's comparison of our broadband download speeds with other countries' could be a bit better and doesn't sweep in some of the comparator countries you'd normally expect to see, but even on a wider set of comparators we're doing better than we were. If you go to the source Akamai document the Commission used, we now rank 34th globally for download speed - not enormously flash, but better than the 41st we scored a year earlier. And we're a little better against European country standards, where we would now tie for 19th rather than 21st. Room for improvement, as they say in the school reports, but as the UFB builds out and more people sign up for it, we've got good prospects of climbing the rankings a bit more.

The UFB trends in the report also spell out Sky TV's ongoing corporate nightmare: the rollout and adoption of a whole new way to deliver movie and sports event quantities of data. There are now 368,000 UFB connections, and growing like fury, and nearly half of households are on unlimited data plans, and the proportion is rising rapidly.

Have we got unfinished business? I speculated last year that maybe it is time to revisit our regulated mobile termination rate: it's still unrevisited, at a left-high-and-dry level by comparison to current overseas rates, for no obvious reason that I can see. And there's an ongoing issue with the high cost of mobile data downloads to data-only devices (see pp28-29 of the report).

The other bit of unfinished business is the ludicrous arrangement whereby the Telecommunications Commissioner is required to monitor the telco industry, and the Commerce Commission is forbidden to monitor any other industry. MBIE went through a whole process in 2015-16, in its targeted review of the Commerce Act, which included the option of fixing this nonsense. Ten months have gone by since the final cross-submissions (including mine) darkened MBIE's door.

Come on MBIE. This is getting embarrassing.

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