Incumbents own Europe's DSL market

Stranglehold

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Despite a 20% sequential rise in digital subscriber line (DSL) installation in the last quarter, Europe's new carriers have warned again that incumbent operators are on course to take a stranglehold on the emerging market.

Publishing its latest "DSL Scorecard", the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) yesterday noted that 90% of DSL lines in Germany and France are still retailed by the incumbents, and blamed Europe's national telecoms regulators for failing to do enough to enforce local loop unbundling (LLU) laws.

At face value, ECTA's DSL Scorecard at least suggests that Europe's lethargic adoption of broadband services is starting to acquire a sense of urgency. Of the almost 200 million telephones installed in European Union countries, more than 6 million are now converted to DSL, compared with 2.7 million in October last year. However, ECTA's point is that virtually all of this growth is coming from incumbent operators, which still dominate the retail as well as the wholesale DSL market in all European countries.

Of Europe's 6,047,278 DSL lines operational today, 5,279,953 are operated on a retail basis by incumbents. Only 4% of Europe's DSL lines are operated by "other licensed operators" (OLOs) or competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) - up from just 3% last October.

ECTA's findings underline the wide disparity between the public commitment to LLU avowed by national regulators and the European Commission, and the real effect of this commitment in the market. Last December, for instance, the EU took legal action against Germany, Greece and Portugal for failing to guarantee shared access to the local loop, but has subsequently dropped the actions against Portugal and Greece. More recently, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal were once more threatened with prosecution by the EU, but little has come from this action so far.

According to ECTA's latest figures, in France and Germany, Europe's biggest telecom markets, incumbent operators still control more than 90% of retail DSL lines. Things are better in the UK, where BT holds only 60% of the retail DSL market, but it is still a far cry from the open competitive market that ECTA is campaigning for, and which European and national regulators claim they are working to achieve.

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