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UK faces next-gen access monopoly - study

03 декабря 2008

The U.K.'s major telecoms players predict a return to a monopoly situation in the next-generation access space, according to the results of a new study released on Tuesday, just hours ahead of the closure of Ofcom's consultation on the subject.

"[Next-generation access] is the most important issue facing the industry and the regulator," said Colin Long, partner at business law firm Olswang, presenting the results of a survey carried out among U.K. telcos including BT, Cable & Wireless, Colt, Viatel, UK Broadband and Freedom4. All spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the lack of clarity from the regulator is a cause for concern for the telcos.

"There is a big policy hole at the moment in the U.K.," said Rob Bratby, also a partner at Olswang. "The U.K. is in danger of being left behind," unless Ofcom develops a clear policy framework, he said, explaining the views of the telcos that took part.

Ofcom's public consultation into next-generation access closes at 5pm today, but the regulator is unlikely to present any results until well into next year.

This "policy vacuum", as one respondent described it, leaves the industry guessing as to how the next-generation access market will be regulated, thereby delaying crucial investment decisions.

"[The operators are concerned that] we could end up with one access network that is not really unbundled," said Long.

"Next-generation access fundamentally changes the market," said one of the survey respondents. "There is only room for one (dominant) infrastructure and its owner will drive others out of business."

The current regulatory framework centres on the importance of facilities-based competition, backed by the introduction of local loop unbundling (LLU). But while LLU works for existing copper networks, it does not easily translate into the next-generation access world, for both cost and technical reasons.

Sub-loop unbundling - through which the alternative player interconnects with the local access network at a point between the network owner's site and the end user, getting closer to the end-user than with LLU - and the use of wireless networks are among the possible options, but according to the survey, neither will provide an ideal solution.

"There's not a lot of faith in sub-loop unbundling being the answer to their problems," said Long, also due to cost and planning restrictions.

Wireless technologies will not be the solution either, said Bratby, a view that came from the majority of participants in the study, including the mobile operators.

Contention in the last mile (from the base station to the customer) and capacity issues in the middle-mile backhaul (from the base station back to the core network), make it almost impossible for mobile operators to deliver services like high-definition TV – seen as a killer application for and key driver of next-generation access network deployment - over mobile networks, the Olswang partners explained.

"[There is] a disconnect between what the mobile industry can actually deliver and what Ofcom would like it to deliver," said Long.

As such, the most likely outcome appears to be "active access", a fibre-based bitstream solution, which would effectively see alternative operators reselling BT's access products.

And active line access is the solution most heavily "promoted" by Ofcom, Long noted.

Источник: Total Telecom

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