2 Degrees responds to Vodafone

I carried last week a guest post from Hayden Glass of Vodafone on the issue of mobile termination rates and Vodafone’s new calling plan.

As I predicted, Vodafone’s move was an own goal, and Steven Joyce has announced:

Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce has asked the Commerce Commission to reconsider its recommendation on mobile termination access services.

Last time the Commission split 2:1 in favour of commercial undertakings over regulation. Will this tilt the balance towards regulation.

In a fit of good timing, 2 Degrees Chief Operating Officer Bill McCabe has sent in this guest post responding to Vodafone.

Kia Ora Hayden,

Thanks for your kind words about 2degrees’ success so far. We put it down to the great value that 2degrees offers when compared to the Vodafone and Telecom charges.

People who move to 2degrees tend to either save a lot of money, or get far more for their money so it’s not surprising that over 200,000 people have joined us. It’s also good to hear Vodafone respond to 2degrees’ lead and start to acknowledge the value of talking.

What I find deeply concerning though is that your article tries to explain MTRs and in many places states as fact information that is plainly wrong and risks misleading consumers and Kiwiblog readers.

I tend to let Vodafone’s spin merchants get away with all sorts of exaggerations – most of which are picked up by the more inquisitive and informed Kiwiblog community, but the scale of the misleading information that you have provided here demands a challenge and that we set the record straight.

First, the UK average MTR is 4.3 pence per minute. That’s 9.2 New Zealand cents. As you well know, virtually all countries except New Zealand charge MTRs on a second plus second basis. The 14.4c that you mention equates to 17.7 NZ cents when adjusted for per second billing (according to the Commission) and should be the figure used for comparative purposes. So, perhaps you could explain how 17.7c is less than the UK rate of 9.2c?

Secondly, it won’t have escaped your attention that Ofcom, the UK regulator has conducted a review of MTRs and proposed that rates drop considerably to 2.5 pence next year and 0.5 pence in 2014 largely to avoid the competitive distortions that favour large mobile operators under the current UK rates. That’s also relevant to your comparison with the UK.

Third, the rates recommended by the Commission are not ‘just under 10c’ from October, but 12c. And not ‘just over 8c from 1 January’ but 10c. Now, exaggerating by around 20% is not hugely significant given the disparity between the undertakings and the UK regulator’s assessment that rates should be so much lower but it does seem that Vodafone are misleading Kiwiblog readers unnecessarily here.

Forth, Text message prices. Complex it is, zero rate MTRs it ain’t. You say that the undertakings ‘cut text prices to zero’ but fail to point out that the rate is only zero for the network that is a net receiver of text messages and is 4c for net senders unless traffic is less than 12% out of balance. So, the price is zero if an operator is a net receiver of text messages and that operator can send incremental text messages at no cost, but an operator that is a net sender of text messages can quite quickly be paying 4c for all incremental messages. I know it’s complex but that’s the Vodafone and Telecom proposal so you should be familiar with it. We advocated real zero rate termination rates but you came up with this very odd construct.

Fifth, you complain that you have to pay 2degrees several times your retail price for text messages but fail to point out that 2degrees has tried to bring wholesale text message rates to zero – that’s the real zero, not the 4c zero that you are trying to portray, for a long time. Are you now saying Vodafone supports Bill and Keep?

It’s very interesting that Vodafone takes one position when protecting a dominant position – as is the case in the majority of Vodafone’s territories, but where it tries to enter new markets it argues for low MTRs. I’ll jog your memory if you like. Here in New Zealand Vodafone argued for zero rate termination in the local calling market in 2006 and asked for (and received) regulation to prevent Telecom from charging its customers more to call a Vodafone number than a Telecom number arguing that without this competition would be ‘hobbled’ before it could commence. Overseas, Vodafone’s most recent ‘new entrant’ mobile investment has been in Qatar where again it argued for Bill & Keep. 2degrees’ success in New Zealand is eclipsed by Vodafone’s success in the Qatari market – well done, you did a good job of arguing for a pro-competitive regulatory environment there.

Bill McCabe
Chief Operating Officer

Great to be getting both sides of the debate. A very robust response. Vodafone have responded to a similar post at Geekzone, so the debate continues.

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