Discussion Papers

Alfons Keuter

Wettbewerb und Regulierung im internationalen Telefondienst - Struktur, Entwicklung und Probleme eines vor der Liberalisierung stehenden Telekommunikationsmarktes in Europa
Nr. 139 / Dezember 1994


Part of the old structure of national and monopolistic telecom markets in Europe is that making an international call requires the cooperative production of two monopoly carriers. Existing market structures exclude foreign carriers from carrying international traffic directly to end-users. Consequence of the lack of competition and downward pressure on prices is that international telecom tariffs are very high and not cost- or demand-oriented so that their structure is wrong as well. Tariff options for business and residential subscribers are rare and insufficient. Experiences from liberalised markets have shown that competition can lead to better pricing, stimulated usage and reduced costs.

In the discussion concerning the liberalisation of the european telecommunications one possible way was to liberalise the markets for international telecommunications in a first, quick step. Although the council of ministers decided in 1993 to liberalise the whole market in one step in 1998 the national suppliers for cross-border telecommunications in Europe already face a growing competition from dynamic carriers and innovative service providers. The globally more and more different market structures and the inflexibility of the international accounting rate regime have supported the deterioration of the balance of traffic flows and payments with the liberalised markets, especially with the US. So the pressure to open the European markets, bring down artificially high accounting rates and international tariffs has grown in the 1980s. In our study we analyze problems and perspectives of the accounting rate regime and the TEUREM system in Europe.

Meanwhile carriers and service providers from abraod have found ways to benefit from the different tariff niveau in liberalised and closed telecom markets. By installing leased lines and using toll-free-numbers they concentrate demands for international telephone connections on hubs in the high-priced regions in Europe and route this traffic over their lower-priced home countries (USA, UK) to the destinations. In a slightly different way callback-services are benefiting from arbitrage potentials. Also suppliers of international calling cards push their activities in Europe. Finally the cellular telephone operators expand their services across national borders by "roaming-contracts".

The discussion of how the regulators should handle these possibilities to bypass the national telephone services concentrates on the short- and longterm economic efficiency of the alternative services. The study concludes that under the existing regimes with infrastructure monopolies there are not only negative financial effects for the national TOs because of higher revenues from leased lines, toll-free-number-services and lower settlement outpayments. On the other side the growing pressure on the TOs leads to lower international tariffs, innovative tariff models, new services and accelerated restructuring of the national TOs. The advantages can outweigh inefficiencies from cost duplication so that the regulators in Europe should downsize the administratively reserved areas and usage restrictions as early as possible.

Only German language version available.

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