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2018 has seen changes to wholesale regulation. But how far will it go?

This year, regulators are forcing the hand of incumbent operators who have for many years reaped the rewards from their dominant market positions. It’s difficult to argue with regulators; they lit the touch paper that sparked the telecom industry into life in the 1990’s. Now those same regulators are striking their matches again in an effort to shake up the industry they gave birth to, with the end goal of encouraging more efficient and cost-effective communication services for both consumers and enterprises.

Ensuring competition always been key to innovation and progress in the telecoms sector, but in recent years a healthy competitive landscape hasn’t always materialised, to the detriment of customers. Now the regulators are back and they mean business. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) proposed to regulate VodafoneZiggo as well as incumbent KPM, to allow other operators to access their cable network. In Belgium too, the regulator CRC concluded earlier this year that it would be necessary to impose wholesale regulation on the main operator Proximus, and the regional cable operators Telenet, Nethys and Brutélé. Separation of wholesale and retail businesses is starting to occur, with the former Telecom Italia announcing in March this year it had officially started work in voluntarily separating out its wholesale access network in to a new legal entity, called NetCo Clearly, by taking this step voluntarily, TI are avoiding the Italian regulator AGCOM forcing full structural separation upon them.

Either way, telcos need to be responsive and adaptable to these new market conditions, building new leadership teams who can turn changing landscapes into strategic advantage – and dealing with regulatory challenges before their hand is forced by the regulators.

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