By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication
I have often argued that in both the fixed and the mobile telecoms markets the actual telecoms element is a utility — a utility that allows for an enormous range of new services, new business models and new applications.
For this reason the argument for more than a decade (since 2002 to be precise) has been that structural separation of the vertically-integrated telecom model is needed in order to unleash the huge potential of telecoms. If that doesn’t happen technologies will be applied that allow the users to bypass the barriers set up by the telcos to protect their utility. The operators have this gatekeepers advantage as the utility is at large a natural monopoly and they don’t face any serious competition in the utility element (infrastructure) of that market.
The internet, smartphones and over-the-top (OTT) services are all examples of successful ways of bypassing the stranglehold that the telcos have on this market. The operators don’t like these new companies on their turf, but, despite their ongoing complaints — at national and international level (ITU, EU, etc.) — that these newcomers are using their utility and bypassing them, they have so far failed to address these problems more structurally, to either become a utility operator on a wholesale basis in order to service this market or to become an innovative retail provider and compete with these OTTs on a services level.
As the conservative telcos don’t want to change their models, we increasingly see regulators making changes aimed at separating the infrastructure and services elements. We see this on the fixed network in, for example, the UK, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and recently on mobile networks in Austria Ireland and Germany also.