Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FTTH ultimately drives separation (2)

Will functional (or even structural) separation happen to the European telcos?
Several countries (Poland, Italy, Australia), operators (Telecom New Zealand, TeliaSonera, eircom and of course BT) and the EC seem to be moving in that direction.

Here are the external forces driving or slowing down the movement. They differ from country to country, but the end-game is the same everywhere (FTTH), so separation will happen - sooner or later.
  • Cable competition (i.e. inter market): forestalls separation. Sufficient BB market competition was a reason for OPTA to say that KPN needn't be separated (aside from OPTA not having the legal means to enforce it).
  • Intra market competition: drives separation. BT is a prime example. The creation of Openreach kickstarted LLU.
  • Wholesale offers: forestall separation. Here KPN is the perfect example. Moving from LLU (with fiber to the MDF locations) to SLU (with fiber to the cabinet), it managed to agree on MoUs with the nations largest unbundlers (Tele2/Versatel, TI's bbned and DT's Orange). In other words, no need to kickstart SLU by separating KPN.
  • FTTH: drives separation. As this is the end-game, separation I believe is inevitable.

Here is my view of the future:

Nobody wants two FTTH networks, even duct sharing isn't sufficient. KPN resorts to being a service provider in Almere on the Reggefiber network, and UPC will be marginalized unless it follows KPN. The physical layer (the fiber) will be a monopolist utility. It will need to be regulated only once service providers start complaining over rates or services.

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