Vodafone and Vocus held a joint press conference yesterday to announce that they are going to partner on plans to unbundle UFB fibre.
Given unbundled access isn’t available until 2020, this was the two companies publicly stating that they have the required scale when acting in concert, and will be working together to identify the best technology, areas of highest return, etc.
This follows news of the pending law change within the Telecommunications Amendment Bill which will set rules relating to unbundled access from January 2020. Essentially, UFB carriers have to offer unbundled fibre access from 2020, but as I mentioned in my last post on this subject, the bill stops short of determining the price points that must be set for the services. Instead, Chorus and the other fibre companies will be able to set their own price points, which in my view makes it much less likely that unbundled fibre will be adopted to any great degree.
This announcement felt much more like round two in a push to have the unbundled pricing debate set in favour of the retail service providers. Having failed in their efforts to have the Government set regulated price points for unbundled fibre access, Vocus, Spark and Vodafone now find themselves at the mercy of Chorus and the price points they choose to set. These will determine any retail providers ability to differentiate while increasing (or maintaining) margins on new services.
I expect to hear many more announcements regarding unbundled fibre access from both Vocus and Vodafone as we move closer to 2020. Spark has moved towards fixed wireless to bypass Chorus’s regulated price points, Vocus and Vodafone are clearly trying to achieve the same outcome and see unbundled fibre access as key (and Spark does too).
Vodafone and Vocus are going to spend a lot of time telling the public about the wonderful services they will be able to deliver should a fair price point be set by Chorus, while Chorus is going to be busy talking about the costs of offering unbundled access, the cost of the UFB deployment in general, and the complexities involved.