Some traditional network operators claim that open access (unbundling or WBA) is not necessary to establish competition, since subscribers are free to choose any over-the-top service they like. Sounds crazy, buy maybe it can be made to work.
The familiar 3 layer model (passive, active, services) can be extended by splitting the lowest and the highest levels:
- Layer 0: trenches, ducts, PoPs
- Layer 1: fiber
- Layer 2: equipment
- Layer 3: access services
- Layer 4: value-added over-the-top (OTT) services
Both at the lower end and at the higher end, this raises problems: natural monopoly and net neutrality, respectively.
Few people will maintain that multiple fiber networks can be laid in a financially viable way. You don't want to build a complete network for a 50% (or even 33%) maximum penetration. Hence, the natural monopoly.
Also, few people see OTT as a viable model for competition. They want open access at layer 1, 2 or 3. The trouble is: the network owner competes with the OTT players, but has all the goodies (billing relation, presence and location information). OTT players have one big asset only: brand name. Hence the net neutrality issue.
Suppose the natural monopoly would lead to a single vertically integrated network, with competition played out only at the OTT layer, then net neutrality issues can be resolved by prohibiting the network operator of providing any value-added services (VAS) - just basic Internet access, which is not a VAS but a basic access service (although business providers usually describe it as a VAS). In other words, a monopoly operator should be prohibited to provide any broadcast, video or voice services. Or spin-off the services devision; not Internet access, but just the VAS and content services.