The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission flagged its intentions in a statement on Friday, saying the Mobile Terminating Access Service will be regulated for a further five years.
The current regulation, or declaration, of voice and SMS MTAS expires on 30 June.
The MTAS is an essential wholesale service that allows consumers on different mobile networks to make calls or send SMS to each other – and requires mobile network operators to connect or ‘terminate’ calls or SMS between their different networks.
The watchdog says that following the inquiry, and extensive consultation, it has decided to continue the declaration of voice terminating services until 2024, but will end declaration of the SMS MTAS service on 1 January, 2020.
“When we decided to regulate wholesale SMS termination services in 2014, mobile operators were charging each other significantly above cost for these services, with a flow-on impact for retail SMS prices,” ACCC commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.
“We have found that this need to regulate SMS termination has disappeared over time because of increasing competition from over-the-top services like Whatsapp and iMessage, and because most mobile plans in the market now offer unlimited SMS.”
The ACCC said that some stakeholders expressed concerns about the impact of ending SMS MTAS regulation on app-to-person services, which are often used by businesses to communicate special deals or sales to customers.
“A2P service providers suggested that, without regulation, mobile network operators would be able to charge much higher prices for termination services for A2P uses,” the ACCC said, adding that it “considered that there were sufficient alternatives to A2P SMS to constrain wholesale SMS MTAS prices, including over-the-top messaging services, emails and in-app chat platforms."
“However, over-the-top voice services are not yet substitutes for mobile voice calls, so it is appropriate to continue declaration of MTAS for voice services,” Cifuentes said.