The survey also reveals that there is a serious threat to
the primary source of competition - local loop unbundling - as incumbents seek a
moratorium on unbundling next generation fibre access lines. If granted, this
could result in incumbent operators controlling a staggering 80% of broadband
lines across Europe or even close to 100% in many countries.
The survey puts Ireland 12th in a list
of 15 countries in Europe - ahead only of Italy, Portugal and Greece. We are
still far behind countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.
The report says Ireland experienced the third highest
growth in uptake in the region at 17% but these figures include data for mobile
broadband, which would not be considered for official OECD figures.
Innocenzo Genna, Chairman of ECTA
said, "People often do not realise that the choice they have of broadband
provider and speeds and prices available depends on how effectively the
regulator has opened up the last mile of the network to competitors.
Policy-makers ignore this at their peril, because the choice we have today may
be gone tomorrow if we do not act to keep telecoms markets open, and Europe’s
competitiveness is at stake."
The European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA),
the organisation representing competitive providers, believes that the European
telecoms market is reaching a critical stage as the existing legacy copper
network is gradually replaced partly or wholly with next generation fibre lines.
Genna added, "Because fixed networks are particularly
expensive to build it is not always economical to duplicate the last mile – the
line going into each home – because it will push up the retail cost of broadband
and may not be justifiable to financial investors. Instead what we need is a
mechanism to share bottleneck access infrastructure on an equal basis.
Functional separation could be a way to enforce infrastructure sharing rules
The survey reveals that countries with the highest
broadband take-up including leaders Denmark and the
Netherlands, as well as Sweden, Finland and the UK, have all benefited from
competition through effective unbundling of the local loop. These countries are
amongst the best broadband performers in the world today.
The worse performing countries include Italy and Poland,
where the incumbent operator enjoys 64% and 59% of the retail market
respectively. Broadband penetration levels in Italy grew at just 3% in the last
6 months and now ranks the lowest of largest EU economies. In Poland,
penetration rates of 7% are less than half of the EU average and local loop
unbundling – despite being ‘mandated’ for several years – remains elusive.
Regulators in both countries are actively pursuing functional separation as a
remedy for the incumbents’ dominance.
ECTA urges the European Parliament and Council to approve
measures proposed by the European Commission in its Review of the Telecoms
Framework, which would strengthen regulators’ powers to ensure effective sharing
of telecom bottlenecks, which are critical in boosting Europe’s competitiveness.
Functional separation is one tool that could be used to address enduring
barriers to competition in the sector. In the UK, it has contributed to the
unbundling of 4 million lines in just two years, a boost in infrastructure
investment by competitors, lower prices and a dramatic increase in broadband