Use Logics. The Customer Benefits of Separation. Nick WHITE INTUG

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1 Use Logics The Customer Benefits of Separation Nick WHITE INTUG T he International Telecommunications Users Group (INTUG) was formed in 1974 to ensure that the voice of the user was heard wherever regulatory issues were discussed. It brings together National Associations of users globally, and includes the Enterprise VPN Users Association (EVUA), which represents multinational users worldwide. INTUG has observer status at the ITU, and close links with other international bodies, such as OECD, ICC and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO). INTUG was one of the earliest organisations advocating competitive markets for telecommunications and has been active in recent years in encouraging the opening up of markets and the effective regulation of non-competitive markets for the benefit of users everywhere. The significant reductions in the price of international leased lines and mobile roaming charges followed many years of intensive campaigning by INTUG. The connectivity requirements of European businesses can best be understood by an appreciation of the context in which these businesses are operating. All businesses are driven by a need for growth to satisfy the expectations of their stakeholders. This growth comes from expanding the scale and scope of their businesses, partly through geographical expansion and partly by acquisitions and mergers. Growth also comes from improved connectivity with business partners in their markets, for example in the supply chain, and from better communication with end customers, for example through multi-channel marketing. This requires increasing dependence on ICT systems and the networks to link them. COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES, no. 68, 4 th quarter 2007, p. 215.

2 216 No. 68, 4 th Q Businesses compete in regional, international, and global markets. The size of these markets is increasing, due to liberalisation and competition and associated foreign inward investment. This also produces an increase in the number of competitors. Whilst European and North American companies have growing access to Chinese and Indian markets, they also face competition from Chinese and Indian suppliers that until recently only served their domestic markets. In addition to mergers and acquisitions of businesses operating in their areas of core competence, this globalisation is driving the same businesses to ruthlessly outsource to ICT integrators. These organisational trends in many industries produce a jigsaw of companies co-existing to produce a co-ordinated overall picture. The links between them must be seamless, efficient, flexible and transparent. The same conditions apply to the ICT applications they use collectively and jointly. It also applies most significantly to the network products and services they use to link them to each other, and to gain access to the information and applications required to run their business processes. As a consequence, customer demands for network services to provide information and access to applications at wholesale, distribution and retail level are increasing dramatically, since they require participation in indirect production and delivery processes at an international level, in order to receive appropriately tailored and timely goods and services. All this points to increasing demand for transborder services. The consequence of the trend towards multi-site multi-country companies relying on complex information, management and measurement systems is a growing presence of data-intense interoperable computer-based systems and increasingly sophisticated voice and video communication systems. These are provided as a service by systems integrators and multinational telecommunications service providers using telecommunications networks to connect customer sites to facilitate inter-site communication. This requires that individual network services, which for reasons of historical monopoly supply are largely, although not exclusively, based in individual countries, are capable not simply of interconnecting with each other, but are also capable of interoperating seamlessly across national borders. This must be done in a way which allows multiple suppliers to provide a customer with a consistent network service that is manageable to a defined service level. To ensure the plurality of underlying networks are technically capable of this interoperability, common standards must be deployed and open

3 N. WHITE 217 interfaces must be preserved at each level of added value. There is a risk, in the absence of regulatory intervention, that national network operators may be tempted to adopt proprietary standards to prevent the migration of their captive national customers to foreign competitors. They may also be tempted to withhold investment in development and implementation of newer technologies in order to retain the revenue and high margins of their cash cow legacy products, which might otherwise be cannibalised. Succumbing to these temptations would result in a handicap for their domestic business customers, by limiting their capability for ICT investment in enhanced network services to improve their business productivity. Incompatibility of standards is also likely to have implications for the quality and security of data communications. A typical example of this problem is the refusal of incumbent operators to provide guarantees for service quality for access inputs at the level which is necessary to meet the security needs of those putting together global solutions for companies with mission critical communications. This may prevent those companies from designing and implementing sufficient resilience and business continuity in their operations. The geographical dispersion of sites and the use of flexible direct and indirect workforces, for example through outsourcing and off-shoring, also requires that there is remote, seamless and high-speed connectivity. This requires interconnection not just between fixed networks but also between fixed and mobile networks. Many companies are operating with flexible workforces operating nomadically ('road warriors') or from home. In such circumstances, the access requirements are no less in terms of bandwidth, but locations are more likely to be rural or suburban rather than in cities. In such locations, where there is often only one physical infrastructure provider, it is vital that competitive access to the provider of physical infrastructure is available. This does not mean simply access to a duct or other civil engineering facility. It means access to the copper or fibre through LLU, or to an Ethernet or Bitstream product. The development of Next Generation Networks which may fragment access circuit markets to a street cabinet level makes these options essential if competition is to survive. This requires separation of that element of the dominant operator's business to ensure equivalence and standardisation of input service supply. It is clear that for businesses to leverage scale and scope efficiencies in this environment by geographical expansion, with access for third parties for non-core processes and by interlinked extended supply chains, the prices for

4 218 No. 68, 4 th Q essential network services must be reasonable. Where there is competitive network supply, the market will achieve this in time. However, where there is no competitive supply, i.e. in access and backhaul in fixed networks, and in termination on mobile networks, reasonable prices will only occur where there is regulatory intervention. Excessive prices, as experienced now for access circuits and mobile termination, raise the overall cost of connectivity, and will reduce demand for the deployment of ICT solutions, since take up of ICT to exploit opportunities for business productivity improvement is highly price sensitive. Growth enabled by ICT accelerates with falling prices. The business customer requirement that their systems are connected could potentially be satisfied simply by very basic network connections. Businesses could then manage their own applications that run over the top of these basic network connections. However, the ruthless focus on core business applies also to the management of communications applications. European businesses operating in global markets typically want a single provider to manage the exercise of creating and managing a global network. The provider can do this by providing a combination of own network and purchased monopoly access and backhaul inputs. Suppliers that do this may come from a background as telecommunications infrastructure providers. It is unlikely that one provider can cover all of a customer's sites through its own access and backhaul technology, although this will be more feasible the more limited the number of countries and sites within those countries for which coverage is required. Alternatively, the supplier may either partner with an infrastructure provider; manage the purchasing of the infrastructure elements on behalf of the client business (this is the usual approach of IT companies); or manage the applications (this may be done exclusively by the same company or it may partner to achieve this). The nature of service provision is therefore quite different from provision of PSTN telecommunications products. Business applications differ from the consumer market. They are: - largely independent of the network infrastructure, - more complex and diverse, with more scope for differentiation, - often requiring synchronous or reverse asynchronous bandwidth, - multiple site, often spanning international boundaries, - driven by machines not people, with very high message volumes. In business services, the access pipe is most commonly provided by a third party leased line, including new technologies such as Ethernet and

5 N. WHITE 219 Bitstream. Access may be distinguished by bandwidth and quality of service features but little else. Access is a low level service (in terms of the OSI network layer model) and therefore highly platform independent, meaning that most electronic communications services can run over it. The key differentiators between the offerings of different service providers are the network applications. Any combination of these, or all of them at the same time, can be offered over the same access pipe. Network applications have at least three important properties: - developing applications is R&D intensive, involving substantial sunk costs and risk. Sometimes the applications are developed in-house by the service provider. Sometimes product development can be outsourced; - the quality, range and diversity offered differs substantially from one operator to another; and - provision often involves bespoke tailoring to each individual customer's needs. There are very few one-size-fits-all products in this market and customisation involves a high fixed cost. A supplier must be able to provide connectivity at the right speeds and at the right level of security to all the business customer's sites if the supplier is to make a successful tender. A networked customer of the type described cannot achieve its objectives if parts of its operation are not part of its seamless information and management processes. The unavailability of the necessary network access products and services in Europe or their overpricing has serious and adverse economic consequences for customers, providers and the EU itself. Customers have to pay much higher prices for a pan-european service because of inflated access prices in some member states or, alternatively, to avoid this have to deploy fragmented network and ICT systems and therefore not have an ability to leverage scale of operations. This may imply not rolling out some applications to some countries; Customers have to split contracts inefficiently because the preferred choice of access input is unavailable, or not available on a ubiquitous basis, or not available at the necessary service quality levels in a specific country; Customers have to use inferior access technology overall because a requirement for seamlessness means that the technology in the worst country requires that this is adopted overall.

6 220 No. 68, 4 th Q Migration is also a problem. Business customers with national communications applications connected by national infrastructure may encounter obstacles to migrating away from an existing national solution when they wish to move to a more efficient regional or global solution which is not provided by the incumbent. The more efficient solution may involve substituting the access product currently being used for a cheaper alternative from the same incumbent. The incumbent may seek to make this transition impossible or onerous and may make the adoption of an enterprise-wide efficiency by the business customer impossible. Costs will rise with long lead times, long overlap times and delayed ceases of original links. Effective separation to remove the motivation for such behaviour is a key step in addressing the problem. There are many operators competing to provide service to multi-site, multi-country customers. However, this does not mean there are no issues on the supplyside with an impact on competition. A number of pan-european business service providers are part of a larger vertically integrated company which includes either one (BT, FT, TDC Song) or several (in the case of Deutsche Telekom) national incumbent fixed networks. Where the conditions of access to the national incumbent fixed network are not available on a non-discriminatory basis then the vertically integrated arm with preferential access may be able to tip multi-site multicountry bids in its favour. The national incumbent may have little interest in providing services that cater for this market at the wholesale level, just as it may not at the retail level. In such scenarios, it may decline, for example, to provide the quality of service for repairs that business service users need. Conversely, competition issues may also be exacerbated where the dominant operator does identify the retail national business services market as an important sense of revenue. This may incentivise it to suppress demand for pan- European solutions by restricting/over-pricing supply of wholesale inputs to pan-european service providers so that business customers remain with a national solution. INTUG believes that the international network service needs of business customers will not be met in an efficient, effective and seamless way whilst the wholesale inputs available to dominant national network operators are not equivalent to those available within the same country to competing international and national operators. Equivalence of input can only be guaranteed by at least functional separation to guarantee independence.

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