Discussion Papers

Ralf G. Schäfer with contributions of Volker Köllmann

International comparison of regulatory approaches for value added telephony services

No. 338/April 2010


Value added telephony services including directory assistance (VATS) represent an integrated sort of communication services which in each case consist of three components: transmission over telecommunications infrastructure, additional content features and associated billing processes. In Germany one can distinguish two basic types of VATS: (1) VATS provided using specific E.164 numbering ranges like 118xy, 0800, 0180, 0900 and 0137 and (2) VATS using mobile short codes and thus being reachable only from mobile networks. In general, VATS are becoming more and more important due to several reasons. On the one hand margins for standard voice telephony services are declining and therefore operators are searching for additional revenues. On the other hand technological progress enables innovative service types which compete with traditional VATS.

Against the backdrop of the growing importance of VATS the present study aims at enhancing the knowledge base for upcoming discussions in the German VATS market, particularly with regard to competition policy and regulation. To this end, the study focuses on empirical case studies in Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The first result of the study is a systematic and comprehensive characterisation of challenges in the German VATS market. Some of these challenges refer to specific types of VATS (e.g. 118xy-directory assistance services, 0180-services). Other challenges are not associated with a single type of service, rather, they affect several or even all types of VATS. According to our research the main issues shaping the future of the German VATS market result from consumer protection, fixed-mobile-substitution and convergence of services.

The main part of the study is devoted to the case studies on Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The regulatory approaches regarding VATS in these countries are analysed according to a structured scheme. The study particularly addresses in each case the basic regulatory framework, numbering issues, assignment rules, pricing, billing and consumer protection. The empirical results reveal that the regulation of VATS differs from country to country. Hence, on an international level one can not identify a single and universal regulatory approach for VATS. Rather the regulation of VATS follows a country specific combination of different measures and rules.

Based on the results of the international case studies the last part of the paper concentrates on issues which might serve as a starting point for future considerations on how regulation of VATS in Germany could further be improved. For each of the topics identified to be a priori relevant we suggest to check from a regulatory perspective whether it would be promising for the German VATS market to deepen and further elaborate on these issues.

(Full version only available in German language)

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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