The Commission must move away from prioritising bilateral, network-based competition, and towards an understanding of a more service-based approach. The last decade was about infrastructure-based competition and the Commission has taken many decisions regarding consolidation on the market (4-to-3 and 3-to-2 M&A deals).
However, this rigid approach fails to meet the needs of:
- Mobile operators building out fibre (or vice versa)
- Non-traditional players like Google entering the market
- Network sharing deals
It is alarming that the Commission and national authorities are increasingly questioning the scope, and sometimes the conditions, of network sharing deals.
By continuing to apply such a rigid and formulaic approach, Europe may in fact end up with fewer networks thanks to the high cost of 5G and fibre. This could leave the Continent’s telcos viewing new roll-outs as lacking a business case. Therefore, we need to move away from the earlier doctrines in which network sharing was only supported in rural areas, for example. Sharing is necessary for faster deployment of the networks that are critical to a data-driven ecosystem.
In our view, the more independent infrastructure there is, the better. Conversely, the more regulatory uncertainty there is, the longer telcos will take to roll out next generation networks. We should applaud any encouragement to invest, and therefore call on regulators to support this via service-based competition.