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EU Net Neutrality Could Put Pressure on Telco Cash Flows

16 декабря 2011

If European authorities were to enshrine net-neutrality in European law, it could further pressure cash flows in the telecom sector as operators invested in their networks to carry increasing volumes of bandwidth-hungry content, while others benefitted from the resulting revenue.

In Fitch's view net neutrality, or the principle of not discriminating between different types of internet traffic, could benefit over the top (OTT) content providers, such as Google's YouTube and Amazon's Lovefilm.com, while increasing capacity constraints on telecom networks - both mobile and fixed. Telecom operators could therefore be forced to invest in capacity to meet customer demand for such services, while the extra revenue flows primarily to the content providers. It is unlikely that flat rate data tariff increases will be sufficient to compensate the operators for such investment.

We believe demand will rise for these services as TV and video content is viewed on a growing range of devices - including internet-enabled TVs, smartphones and tablets - which will become more pervasive over the next couple of years. If net neutrality did drive the commercial benefits towards the content providers, it could also lead to further exploitation of these services.

Network investment, particularly within incumbent telecoms, is already somewhat hampered by inconsistent rules among European regulators on whether fibre networks should be shared with competitors. Net neutrality could provide a further inhibitor to network investment if the operators see the lion's share of the value going to content providers. An ability to charge premium rates to these service providers could, we believe, provide a better investment case for the operators.

We believe it may be tougher for Europe to reach a consensus on net neutrality compared to the US, because of the number of different voices involved. However, we note that the Council of the European Union on Tuesday said member states should "ensure the open and neutral character of the internet" and recommended that the European Commission step up its focus on net neutrality.

The Council highlighted the need for an analysis of sharing the cost of traffic among different internet players - a potential positive for telecom companies. But it also called for the continued study of the charges and conditions that mobile operators impose on voice over internet protocol (VoIP) users.

Mobile operators are encouraging customers onto tiered-usage packages to offset the use of these services, which bypass voice and text charges. However, we believe that data revenue growth will be only a limited substitute for falling voice and SMS revenues.

Источник: Cellular news

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