18 January, 2019

Joint GSMA-ETNO response to the BEREC public consultation on the BEREC Common Position on Mobile Infrastructure Sharing

Introductory Remarks on the Impact of 5G

The BEREC common position on mobile infrastructure sharing takes a backwards-oriented view on competition in mobile telecommunication services. For these common positions to be valid for the future, they need to at least take into consideration both, how mobile markets have developed and future the evolution of access networks, in particular, the changes when it comes to 5G networks. These future aspects need to be reflected in the analysis in order to ensure a competitive digital infrastructure for Europe.

 

5G will substantially change the overall network configuration and management, notably:  

-       5G  will  provide  true  convergence  of  access  networks  among  fixed,  mobile,  WiFi  and  satellite networks;  
-       Network architecture will be largely virtualised to enable network sharing opportunities without compromising   MNO  differentiation possibilities.   For  example,   MNOs   can  have different  NVF  (Network  Virtualised  Functionality)  software,  while  sharing  the  same  access network hardware, which in turn can be owned by a neutral host hardware; and
-      5G  will  see  all  operators  compete  on  services  produced  outside  of  core  and  access  networks, with services and devices having network-agnostic access.

As  a  consequence,  the  technical  evolution  towards  5G  is  shifting  the  parameters  of  competition outside the network access layer. Active network sharing, as we know today, may simply not play the same role in a 5G ecosystem.   

Therefore, the impact of active network sharing (as defined today) on competition is overestimated in the document. In the upcoming 5G environment, the access network ecosystem will be even more competitive as more technologies come into play. At the same time, this entails that a single operator probably   may   not   operate   a   fully-fledged   fixed,   mobile,   WiFi   and   satellite   network   without partnerships or sharing of various sorts. On the service level, the access layer services will be IP based, hence in direct competition with the OTT IP-based services.  

Given this change in the network ecosystem, the need and rationale for sharing could increase, be it passive  or active  form.  The  savings  enabled  by sharing  in terms  of deployment  costs  can be very significant and make a difference in reaching the profitability thresholds, required for investments to be pursued.  

Therefore,  BEREC  should  be  cautious  not  to  set  out  restrictive  recommendations  that  may  create uncertainty or generate chilling effects on future innovation, thereby slowing down the introduction of 5G and the achievement  of EU connectivity  goals. BEREC should rather increase  legal certainty  for efficient  investments  that  avoid redundant  infrastructure  and  result  in  environmental  and  public health benefits.  

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