“Connected Continent” – Telecoms Single Market regulation – Access Obligations
and Single Authorisation
Views of BT Group plc
Introduction More effective provision of cross-border services to businesses can help significantly boost productivity, innovation and economic growth. This means that the proposals for effective and consistent regulation of wholesale access inputs (‘European virtual broadband access products’ – Arts 17 & 18) form one of the most important parts of the proposed ‘Telecoms Single Market Regulation’.
In BT’s experience in the European market place, in particular in serving pan-European clients, the greatest obstacle in serving this client base is the highly varied application of the existing regulatory framework (as demonstrated in the vastly different regulatory outcomes of market reviews and their enforcement) and the consequent variation in, for example, business grade wholesale access (Ethernet) products.
Virtual Access Products
‘Virtual’ access products can provide similar functionality to physical unbundling, are more economically efficient and allow higher levels of consumer choice and innovation through increased retail or service-level competition. ‘Virtual’ access services also provide the opportunity for new entrants to roll out their own networks closer to the end corporate customers in response to real customer demands where the business cases of ‘physical’ access services tend to necessitate an immediate mass market demand for it to be commercially viable; in the corporate market segment such intense local demand tends not to exist, as corporate customers’ geographical locations are widely spread. As such, ‘virtual’ access services are often the most pro-competitive and pro-investment regulated access service for corporate customers.
The requirement to provide business-grade wholesale reference offers should substantially help to address the current non-availability and inconsistent regulation, particularly of wholesale Ethernet access (leased lines), which is the key access input for business service provision, and of wholesale bitstream accesss which can also support business usage.
While the proposals for more harmonized regulation of wholesale access inputs are very positive, the potential use of delegated Acts for unspecified and potentially unlimited further detail on the specification / reference offer for “European Virtual Access Products” inevitably causes business uncertainty. It is essential that any eventual Acts ensure due proportionality and that national regulators have sufficient flexibility to prevent the undermining of investments made in existing virtual access products where these already forms the basis of mass-market deployment.
The veto over SMP remedies should be clarified as relating to SMP obligations for new access products in a ‘home’ country, which would be consumed by a “European electronic communications provider” from another country, rather than obligations on the European electronic communications provider itself.
The proposal for a wholesale “Assured Service Quality connectivity product” is not sufficiently clear. BT upports the right to offer services with a defined service quality but the obligation to provide access to a pecific product cannot be appropriate or proportionate where the definition is open to interpretation.
The ‘Single Authorisation’ for the provision of Electronic Communications networks and services may help reduce unnecessary operational overheads. This would bring benefits to pan-EU providers but while it is welcome, it should be noted that the resource associated with notification and compliance is not a material obstacle to pan-European operations and does not substitute for addressing ineffective or inconsistent treatment of access remedies. The Commission should look at developing an on-line system where pan European operators can log their authorisation entitlements. This would allow local NRAs to verify entitlement as well as the Commission to monitor any undue variations of regulatory burdens that the various local regulatory regimes may cause.
BT Group plc 16/10/2013
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