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ComCom keeps interconnect and portability rules

The Commerce Commission says for now it will keep regulating PSTN interconnection, number portability and mobile co-location.

It hints that it may not need to regulate these services in the long term.

Yet, for now at least, the Commerce Commission says it needs to watch them because they help keep the market competitive. And that is good for customers.

Telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says: “After consulting with the sector, and interested parties, our view is that these services continue to play an important role in the market and should remain regulated for now.”

The decisions about these services is part of a five yearly review of regulations.

Under the new Telecommunications Act, the Commerce Commission has to revise all areas of regulation every five years to check oversight remains necessary.

How do these regulations help competition?

Number portability means a customer can keep their existing mobile or landline phone number when they switch from one telco to another.

Without number portability, moving between service providers is hard work. It’s enough of a chore to make people think again about switching to a plan from another company.

That decreases competition. It makes it extra hard for a new service provider to enter the market.

Traditional landlines are disappearing at a rapid rate. They will be rare, even non-existent by the time the next five year review rolls around. Which means landline number portability regulation could be meaningless by 2026.

Mobile phone numbers aren’t going anywhere in a hurry.

Mobile co-location

This is about allowing mobile phone companies to share cell sites and install hardware on towers built by rivals.

Allowing co-location means less waste. It lowers costs.

This is good for mobile customers. But it needs regulating. We don’t want the mobile companies to get too cozy with each other.

PSTN interconnect

When you make a call from one landline network to another, you use PSTN interconnection.

This has been a huge deal in the past. It needed regulation. Big powerful phone companies could make life hard for smaller rivals by messing with interconnect.

Landline calling is in decline. Spark is in the process of decommissioning its PSTN. These days the majority of calls are either wireless or voice over IP.

Yet there are user who remain dependent on the old technology and may do for years to come.

It’s a reasonable bet that when the next five year review rolls around, the Commerce Commission can drop PSTN interconnect regulation. It’s not a certainty.