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EU set to open up access to new web systems

14 сентября 2010

Brussels is expected to extend the obligation of large telecoms operators to provide network access to competitors when it lays out its new high-speed broadband regulatory framework next week.

The European Commission has decided to use the same principles currently used to regulate old copper networks to control next-generation fibre-optic systems, according to a draft of recommendations seen by the Financial Times.

The move may come as a disappointment to big in­cumbent operators such as Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica. Most large network owners in Europe, often former state monopolies, had argued that their investments in fibre networks should be regulated differently to the copper systems they inherited at privatisation, in part to encourage the large layouts re­quired in coming years.

The Commission has rejected that line of thinking. “What they are saying is that there’s an evolution of the regulation that matches the evolution of the networks,” but that the same principles apply, said Matthew O’Regan, a solicitor at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Brussels.

The big operators’ industry group says over-stringent rules would make it unattractive to invest the estimated €300bn ($386bn) needed to upgrade Europe’s internet infrastructure.

“Such a proposed regulatory approach will be challenging for investors,” said Michael Bartholomew, dir­ector of the European Telecommunications Network Op­erators’ Association.

But the regulation stops short of setting the price at which network operators need to grant access to competitors. Nick Delfas, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said: “The impact of the regulation depends on what price network owners are allowed to charge to competitors. It’s not clear how that will be calculated.”

New-entrant operators welcomed the likely outcome but were wary on the lack of pricing clarity.

“The jury is still out” on the impact of the regulation, said Ilsa Godlovitch of the European Competitive Telecommunications Association. “It all depends on how it is in turn enforced by national regulators. We need more clarity on pricing rules to ensure rivals are not squeezed out of the markets.”

The recommendation is not legally binding on the European Union’s 27 states, but any deviation from its principles is likely to be perceived by Brussels as a breach of competition rules – an area in which it wields extensive powers.


Источник: Financial Times

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