Ten months after the ACCC gave a solid “No Soup for you!” to TPG and Telstra getting together to share spectrum and network infrastructure in regional NSW a remarkably similar deal has just been agreed to between TPG Telecom and Optus.

Go figure.

Now for context, TPG/Vodafone already share the Optus 3G network in a roaming capacity, in such that if you’re a Vodafone customer and are out of coverage but are within range of an Optus 3G tower, your phone will “roam” onto the Optus tower.

So these two companies working together is not new.

However, this new 4G/5G deal is far more detailed, and seems very favourable to the TPG/Vodafone business and customer base.

TPG’s healthy spectrum in regional areas will benefit both Telcos, while the 2,444 Optus Mobile Network sites in regional Australia will ensure TPG/Vodafone’s coverage for 4G grows from 400,000 square kilometers to around 1,000,000 under this deal.

It’s not a roaming deal, instead it’s called an MOCN (Multi-Operator Core Network) agreement, which means TPG customers will be getting the full TPG network, security and back end services no matter which tower they are connected to.

Both Optus and TPG will operate their own core networks, utilising the Optus Towers, while also operating their own seperate and competitive networks in Metropolitan areas.

Optus acting CEO Michael Venter said this was a win for regional Australia “For over 30 years Optus has brought choice and competition to Australia through investment in network services and infrastructure. This is a win for all Australians, especially our regional communities, businesses, and visitors,”

“Optus and TPG Telecom will be positioned to provide consumers with more choice and better services as we accelerate our investment in the regions. 

“The agreement will reduce combined 5G network rollout costs in regional Australia, which will enable the rollout of 5G infrastructure to be completed two years earlier than previously planned,”

TPG Telecom CEO Iñaki Berroeta spoke of the expanded reach this offered their customers “This network sharing arrangement will reset the competitive landscape for mobile services in regional areas and provide Australians with more choice than ever before,”

“This will allow us to reduce rollout and operating costs, make better use of network assets and deliver huge customer benefits,”

“In a country as large as Australia, this is the sustainable approach we need to maximise established infrastructure, and expand the reach of telecommunications services, competition and choice for consumers.” 

Subject to relevant regulatory approvals, the MOCN is expected to be available to TPG and Optus customers in early 2025.  

When it comes to those approvals, EFTM does not anticipate Telstra objecting to this partnership, nor do we expect the ACCC to object.

That is, despite this being essentially the same deal for the public as TPG had proposed with Telstra. How the ACCC justifies it’s strange decisions in regard to this, and domestic roaming in recent years still boggles the mind.

In the end, hopefully giving regional Australian’s access to the deals, plans and offers available on TPG, Vodafone, iiNet, Kogan Mobile and other players on the TPG Network – is a good thing. It always was.

UPDATE: Telstra responds

EFTM reached out to Telstra, and a Telstra Spokesman said:

Improving connectivity across regional Australia is important and we welcome Optus and TPG’s proposal to step up to this challenge. 

Telstra has invested significantly over many years to build the best mobile network in Australia. Customers in regional, rural and remote locations know that only Telstra can provide the secure, reliable, resilient mobile network they need. We’re committed to continuing to offer our customers, including across regional Australia, the country’s leading mobile network. 

If this proposal goes ahead it is another reason for government, policy makers and regulators to look at how Australia uses the scarce resources of mobile spectrum to best support customers in regional, rural and remote areas. This should include ensuring that spectrum is allocated in a way that delivers the best outcomes for customers and reflects the investments different network operators have made to improve coverage.  

How we take that is another thing, firstly “if this proposal goes ahead” indicates a slight level of concern, and additionally you can bet Telstra will be questioning and lobbying the Government on Spectrum Auctions and Allocations going forward.