26 Sep 2019

Too few consumers switching mobile provider - watchdog review

4:39 pm on 26 September 2019

Consumers are benefiting from healthy competition in mobile phone services and the sector does not need more regulation, a Commerce Commission review has found.

New Zealand's largest two telecommunications companies are too big to be threatened by their competitors.

Photo: RNZ / 123rf

"Having assessed the state of competition in the mobile market we have not identified any particular problems or structural issues that could be hampering competition," telecommunications commissioner Stephen Gale said.

It found the three largest market providers, Vodafone, Spark, and 2Degrees, were all profitable and had invested $2.5 billion in networks over the past decade.

Average mobile data usage has more than doubled in the past two years, while prices had fallen.

However, few consumers were shifting between telecommunications providers, with only 54 percent doing so in the past five years.

Mr Gale said about 54 percent of consumers had changed providers over the past five years, but there was room for consumers to keep pressure on providers for better service and prices.

"We are keen to see more consumer activity and will be looking into ways we can help New Zealanders understand whether they are getting the best deal possible and, if not, consider switching."

The Commission's study of the sector was launched in late 2017, as questions mounted over convergence in the industry.

The final report has found an emerging market for virtual operators to join large companies networks and sell services, such as what Vocus, The Warehouse and Kogan have done.

Mr Gale said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) pending auction of radio spectrum, which providers needed to buy to build new networks and services, including 5G, could hamper competition in the future.

"In our view, there is a need for wholesale and retail competition matters to be at the forefront of decisions relating to MBIE's upcoming allocation of 5G spectrum."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs