Monday, November 02, 2009

What to do about privatised monopolies

There have been very few voices that have lasted out the last two decades by consistently arguing that telecommunications should remain a monopoly under Government ownership. Kenneth Davidson however is one, as shown by his latest contribution.

He doesn't i his spray really get to the point of telling us though why we should love a privatised monopolist, just why we should hate competitors.

Annoyingly he pursues the myth that Telstra's competitors have only cherry picked in the cities. If we go back to the first part of this competition, fixed line voice calls and mobile phones, we can see errors in the analysis.

Prior to competition long distance calls were charged in price bands based on distance. Following on from competition, these bands have been eliminated with all long distance calls charged at the same rate. Firms like AAPT that entered tis market early were always actually more successful i regional Australia than the cities because regional Australians had more long distance calls as a proportion of their phone bills. This was despite the fact that buying the fixed line access (PSTN OTA) was always dearer in regional Australia.

When it was decided to allocate two additional licences for GSM mobiles, the two licencees (Optus and Vodafone) had "must build" conditions o their licences. These required coverage of 80% of the population of Australia. However, once operators got to these levels they competed in the metro markets by quoting how much coverage they had. City customers who might never go into the regions still valued a phone that would be more useful when the time came. Mobile networks built out into the regions not because the base stations would ever attract a commercial traffic level, but because they needed to compete to secure metro customers on the coverage promise.

The nonsense about never seeing competitors in the bush just reflects what the Government has realised, that there is no logic in facilities based competition of the fixed line network. Splitting Telstra is a way to preserve this monopoly while fostering competition in services.

No comments: