Cellphone tower sharing

The Dom Post reports:

The Commerce Commission has opened the door to mobile phone companies sharing a 4G mobile network, saying it would be willing to engage in “appropriate discussions” on issues that may be relevant to network sharing.

Telecommunications Industry Group chief executive Rob Spray suggested in December that Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees could build a 4G network using shared cellphone towers and radio spectrum that they jointly owned, to avoid a proliferation of cellphone towers.

2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz expressed support for the idea, while Telecom said it was open to it in principle. However, Vodafone feared that any move to a single mobile network might fall foul of competition law.

A commission spokesperson says the Commerce Act does not bar such arrangements, except where they might greatly lessen competition.

I think it is very sensible to avoid duplication in infrastructure for mobile phones. The competition should come in services and applications.

In fact an idea which has occured to me, is that regional fibre companies could be tasked with responsiblity for future cellphone towers in their areas. My rationale is:

  • RFCs are set up to provide infrastructure to telcos and ISPs
  • RFCs are not allowed to be majority owned by a telco that provides services or applications
  • As more of the Internet goes over the mobile network, you need better backhaul from cellphone towers, so who better than the local fibre company
  • The telcos might even consider selling their existing cellphone towers to RFCs

Of course at this stage we don’t have any RFCs yet, but once they are established it may well be a conversation worth happening.

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