Monday, July 10, 2006

RESELLERS://Is there a future in non facilities-based competition?

Keith McMahon's piece on current turmoil in the MVNO space got me going on (non) facilities-based competion.

First, the MVNO market:
  • Netherlands: EasyMobile quits; Debitel (not an MVNO but a reseller) is losing share, as MVNOs approach 15% market share (whatever that is supposed to mean: comparing apples to pears).
  • France, Spain: E-Plus/KPN, Iliad, ONO, Fnac, Tele2, Jazztel are reported to plan services.
  • US: Disney reportedly has trouble attracting subs. Microsoft could launch an MVNO, to accompany the music player launch late this year.
  • Japan: is preparing open access.

To my understanding, MVNOs do have a place under the sun, as long as they have a clear understanding with their capacity supplier. MNOs potentially can squeeze them out, if they wish and if the regualtor would allow them to do so. Some rationale:

  • MNOs can keep regulators at bay by allowing MVNOs.
  • MVNOs usually target niche audiences. These should be uninteresting for the MNO for any reason: too small, unattainable for the MNOs brand (danger of brand dilution), too expensive to market, no content available (see the Disney MVNOs).
  • MNOs add a revenue stream (wholesale) and fill up their networks.

Finally, the NO versus the VNO (altnets do not have the last mile) case in fixed telecoms:

  • The US have effectively banned altnets. Now there is a duopoly of telco v. cableco. End result: high prices, low speeds.
  • Europe is struggling with the issue: Germany wants to adopt the US model, but the EC opposes this. The LLU model has proven effective in France, the UK, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Interestingly, KPN is trying to get the cablecos regulated, instead of getting itself unregulated. It believes in the British model (even if they don't want an Openreach style solution). The 64k dollar question is: how do we get fiber deeper into the telco networks, without banning LLU? Street cabinets simply offer no room to altnets to co-locate VDSL-DSLAMs.

Altnets are too entrenched in Europe, unless the incumbent simply buys them all. Then we could move to the US model: another dilemma, because that is not exactly a consumer friendly solution.

It's about time that BPL/PLC, minufiber and WiMAX become viable third pipes (but then, why on earth does Spain allow Telefonica to takeover Iberbanda?).

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