“All we ask for is the ability to compete. We have the ability and the resources to compete alone, but we need the opportunity as well,” Chris Bannister, CEO, Play
Today, Challengers face many serious obstacles if they are to continue bringing competition and new services to European mobile subscribers. If Europe is serious about wanting true and sustainable competition leading to free choice for consumers, lower retail prices and better network coverage, the regulatory framework and the implementation thereof must change.
We can and want to help national and EU regulators change the ground rules for competition. We are here to make a difference.
At the national level
1 Continued ex-ante regulation: In those countries where the market is not competitive and where the gap between the incumbents and challengers is such that competition is endangered, effective ex ante regulation is required to restore market conditions that are conducive to good consumer welfare and ongoing investment in new products and services. Lack of implementation of competition regulation or enforcement in mobile markets directly impacts on the ability of the Challenger to make large scale investment in a mobile market and negatively impacts on consumer welfare.
2 Harmonised implementation of regulation: Challengers require harmonised regulation if they are to continue investing in different Member States. Current imbalances of implementation between states is unsatisfactory, and negatively impacts on the ability of Challengers to achieve a return on their investment.
At the European level
1 Stop the one size fits all approach: regulation should consider the structural difference in the market between first and later entrants, which has a fundamental impact on the development of competition. For example: Challengers are in favour of reducing MTRs, which is in the interest of the consumer and the market. But any reduction must be calculated with the unique competitive structure of each respective market in mind, and structured implementation must take place under rational circumstances to ensure that MTR reduction encourages, rather than jeopardises, competition. As long as MTRs
remain above cost for larger operators, Challengers call for asymmetric regulation to offset the advantage for incumbents.
“As long as incumbents are being allowed by a subsidy regulation to charge way more than cost there should be a way to compensate against this imbalance,” Christian Salbaing, Managing Director, Hutchison Europe
2 Fair distribution of frequencies: The EC must remedy existing distortions caused by incumbents who, for legacy reasons, operate on frequencies that are more cost-effective to operate than later frequency bands. As well as addressing past discrimination, Challengers ask that measures are also taken to ensure existing distortions are not amplified in future frequency allocation processes by not allowing Challengers for access to 900 MHz spectrum for UMTS and other advanced services.
3 Regulation of wholesale roaming rates: Current roaming regulations do not provide a remedy for the anti-competitive effects of alliances of large operators working together to exclude independent operators. The EC must act to bring an end to these ‘unholy’
alliances if it is to extract lasting benefit from its existing efforts to bring down the cost of international voice and data traffic.
4 Fair switching costs: European regulation can and must ensure open competition between all operators. To ensure this, Challengers request that portability and roaming is secured for all operators in all markets, and that steps are taken to prevent incumbent operators using their size and scale to distort the market by indulging in anti-competitive practices such as discriminatory On-Net/Off-Net pricing, handset subsidies and unworkable number portability rules.
5 An adequate enforcement policy: Without recourse to an adequate channel for enforcement, Challengers will continue to be at the mercy of their larger rivals’ anticompetitive measures and all the good work done to date on making and keeping Europe’s mobile markets fair and competitive would be undone. Challengers have notched up successes by challenging the actions – or lack of action – of national regulators in the courts or through competition authorities but such a course of action is incredibly time consuming – time spent working through the judicial system is time lost that could otherwise have been spent building up a business. There has to be a better way.
“Overregulation is not what we are asking for: what we want is good regulation that enables the natural market of the market without distortion,” Luigi Gubitosi, CEO, Wind