Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do incumbents need protection?

"Europe's leading telecoms operators have called for a softening of regulation across the sector, to encourage investment in next generation infrastructure in the face of the credit crunch", reports Telecoms.com. "Aggravated by the ongoing financial crisis, slowing investment trends could lead to a further delay in the deployment of high speed broadband access networks, further affecting Europe's competitiveness. (..) If regulatory policy continues to constantly focus on pushing prices down, ever more capital will be withdrawn from the industry. The most recent example is the move to cut mobile termination rates in the EU at an even lower level than costs. If this trend continues, it risks pushing the ICT sector into an economic downturn further deepening the recession of our global economy."

Poor incumbents (united in ETNO)! So now they want protection, not only from us, but from their competitors as well. After all, wasn't regulation invented to lower prices, enhance service levels and increase choice? So now they relaunch their extortionist speak: we will lower investment levels.

Last time I checked, however
  • the European telecoms markets were still heavily skewed toward the incumbents. BIPT, the Belgian NRA is ordered by the EC to see to it that Belgacom lowers its fixed line voice rates; and VATM showed (slide 15) that Deutsche Telekom still controls 78% of the German fixed-line market.
  • the EC was pushing for mobile termination rates to come down from irrationally exuberant levels, but still above cost (1-2 c/min), if things go as Arcep proposes (to about double that amount in 2010).
  • NGN investments are supposed to help stimulate GDP growth.
But there was some sense in the story as well: ETNO calls for symmetric obligations for duct access. In other words, not just the incumbent, but altnets too should allow access to ducts. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Perhaps ETNO is even hinting at taking this 'symmetry' one step further: access to cable ducts.
Who knows.

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