The association for newcomers on the telecoms market, ECTA, is opposed to deregulation of the wholesale market for telephony and to the development of 'virtual' access to broadband installations. According to Erzsebet Fitori, director of ECTA,a"the key bottlenecks of today are those of yesterday and will be those of tomorrow". Therefore, "why change a regime that is working well?" added ECTA's President, Tom Ruhan.
The European Commission proposed in a draft recommendation on 'relevant markets' in the telecommunications sector, published on 24 January(1), that legislation should be changed. The EU executive wants to withdraw wholesale markets for fixed telephony from the list of regulated markets, saying that currently there is enough competition in this sector and therefore there is no need for national regulatory authorities to intervene and oblige incumbent operators to open up access to their installations.
One of the Commission's arguments is that consumers can now call using the internet, with services such as Skype, WhatsApp and ChatOn, which means there is more competition on the telephony market. However, the Commission's assessment does not take into account the fact that "only around 61% of European households have broadband access," and therefore for the remaining 39% of households, using computer telephony services (VoIP) is not an alternative, says a study carried out by Webb Henderson and SPC Network on behalf of ECTA. Moreover, for many professional clients, "VoIP is not an effective substitute on quality, availability or cost grounds".
Incumbent competitors are also unimpressed with another change proposed by the Commission: the classification of physical and virtual access to broadband installation under the same heading. The same approach is also taken in the telecoms package.
Regarding virtual access, newcomers must rent incumbent operators' equipment, rather than installing their own. In theory, this system reduces costs and solves the problem of physical access to cabinets, which provide the final metres of connection to consumers. In practice, competitors depend on the technology and speed of connection offered by incumbent operators, newcomers emphasise. Without physical unbundling, there can be no innovation - or true competition, they say.
Solutions to the lack of space exist: for example, the construction of side-by-side cabinets providing technical relays to households and offices, but also the introduction of...