Monday, January 13, 2014

Structural separation: great in theory (but so is communism)

Structural separation, separation of network and services, open access: it remains beautiful in theory but hard in practice.

Network and services are financially and operationally entirely different animals, but operators are simply reluctant to let go of the vertically integrated model.
  • EE (UK mobile JV of DT and Orange): set off as wholesale-only, but decided to enter the retail services market.
  • LightSquared (4G in the US): never got off the ground as wholesale-only provider, albeit for entirely different reasons (interference).
  • Reggefiber (FTTH in NL) set out as a wholesale-only network builder with an operator and a services branch to get things off the ground. Indeed, it succeeded in selling the ISPs to KPN, but itself will be rolled into KPN as well. Effectively, it will end up being the NetCo of a vertically integrated player.
  • CIF (FTTH in NL) wanted to sell its services branch Caiway to KPN, but this was prevented by the competition council. No other buyer seems on the horizon, leaving CIF a vertically integrated player as well.
  • Several open access FTTH operators in the US: the incumbent shuns using their networks and small ISPs appear to have just too little weight to pull of the job. And so, Provo ends up in the hands of Google.
  • Google Fiber itself promised an open access model, but this isn't happening either. Google is providing services itself.
Singapore seems to be pulling of the separation model, even though SingTel is trying to grab hold of the passive layer (which it will be required to spin off). The Australia NBN appears to be a disaster. (Who ever advised the NBN Co? Who so shamefully failed in carrying out the business plan according to plan?)

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