Discussion Papers

Astrid Höckels

Alternative Formen des entbündelten Zugangs zur Teilnehmeranschlussleitung
Nr. 215 / Januar 2001


Three years after liberalization of the telecommunication markets in the EU Member States the local markets remain one of the least competitive segments. One possibility to foster competition in this segment for voice telephony as well as for broadband services is unbundling the access to the local loop. Under this heading different forms may be considered: full unbundled access, line sharing and bitstream access. Having in mind that incumbents today extend the use of optical fiber in the access networks other forms of unbundled access, not necessarily resting on a copper wire infrastructure, such as subloop unbundling and fiber in the loop solutions become relevant.

The aim of the study is firstly to describe the elements of competition theory giving rise to the requirement of unbundling. Secondly, the most important challenges for implementation of these different forms of unbundled access are to be analysed. Thirdly, previous experiences with unbundling in different countries should be discussed.

The general obligation of an incumbent to offer access to his local loops is based on the essential-facilities-doctrine. The analysis yields that this doctrine is a very young instrument in the European and German competition law and that application of this doctrine is contentious.

An investigation of the alternative forms of unbundled access to the local loop shows that each form causes numerous technical and operational challenges before as well as during implementation. Moreover, setting and monitoring of prices, time limits and contractual arrangements between incumbents and new entrants are conditions crucial for the development of workable competition in the local market.

Past experiences have shown that the full unbundled access approach in Germany as well as in the United States, where it has been mandated a few years ago, has had only little effects on the competitiveness of the market. Taking into account that the incumbents currently are extending their activities to the relative new market for broadband services as well, from our point of view line sharing is a necessary regulatory instrument to decrease the likelihood of market power. The experiences in the mentioned countries also show that in order to establish workable competition a permanent monitoring and control of the economical, technical and operational challenges through a regulator is required in view of numerous conflicts with interests between incumbents and new entrants.

Only German language version available.

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