Telstra has been ordered to deregister more than 150 radio sites under a court-enforceable order, after Australia’s consumer watchdog raised concerns the company was “hindering” a rival telco’s 5G rollout.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched a lengthy investigation after over concerns about the telecommunication giant’s registration of 315 low-band radiocommunications sites back in January.
Low-band spectrum, such as 900MHz, can transmit over greater distances and is used by mobile network operators to provide coverage and capacity.
The ACCC probe raised concern Telstra’s regulation of the 315 sites would have “hindered” or prevented its rival Optus from deploying its 5G network, thereby preventing it from engaging in competitive conduct.
Under the court undertaking, Telstra is now required to deregister all remaining radiocommunications sites registered in the 900MHz band.
The company holds a license for parts of the 900MHz spectrum band until June 2024.
But up until January, Telstra was making little use of the spectrum and had not registered a new site since 2016.
Optus successfully bid for licenses in the low-band spectrum following an auction by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in December last year.
Telstra then registered the other 315 low-band radiocommunications sites.
They later deregistered 153, with 162 remaining registered.
The undertaking, agreed to by the ACCC, requires Telstra to deregister all remaining radiocommunications sites it registered with the ACMA in the 900MHz spectrum band in January 2022 which would have prevented Optus early access to the spectrum.
ACCC chair Liza Carver said the undertaking meant more Australians in regional and metropolitan areas would have access to a choice of 5G services.
“This is critical as 5G network coverage becomes an important factor in consumer choice in mobile phones and mobile plans,” she said.
“Competition is key to driving innovation and investment in new technology and providing consumers with greater choice, better quality services and lower prices.”
The new court order comes after Telstra announced it would return all of its call centers to Australia after ongoing consumer demand.
“What we heard loud and clear was that you wanted a change in the way we answered our calls, so we did it,” CEO Andrew Penn said last month.