Interoperability for number-independent interpersonal communications services under the DMA

Interoperability for number-independent interpersonal communications services under the DMA

More harm than good?

Based on a consumer survey in Germany, the implications of interoperability obligations of number-independent interpersonal communication services (NI-ICS) anchored in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) are examined.

WhatsApp is currently the leading service on the NI-ICS market in Germany with a user share of 88%, followed by Facebook Messenger with a user share of 38%.The other NI-ICS included in this study, such as Telegram, Signal and Skype, only achieve a maximum user share of 22%. Even if these other services are used, they usually play a subordinate role for their users - both in terms of frequency of use and their relevance for communicating with others.

In light of the DMA and its interoperability (IOP) obligation, the consumers choice of which communication services to use could change in the future. The DMA requires gatekeepers and their NI-ICS to provide a reference offer for IOP. Third-party providers NI-ICS can decide to accept this offer and make the services technically interoperable with each other. Among other things, IOP could address network effects, prevent lock-in and stimulate competition.

In this context, the present study aims to analyse consumers' opinions and reactions to the IOP of their NI-ICS and their preferences regarding the implementation of IOP. The results show, among other things, that consumers are not averse to IOP. Depending on the implementation phase, at least half of NI-ICS users state that they would want to allow IOP. However, IOP tends to reduce the use of alternative NI-ICS for these consumers, while the use of gatekeeper NI-ICS is not expected to change.