NGN-Oriented Interoperability Ends, Possible Risks and Forward-Looking Solutions
M. Bilal Unver
affiliation not provided to SSRN
A. Gül Mirzaoglu
Information and Communication Technologies Authority
March 30, 2012
Development of all-IP networks is a process which brings out new challenges and possible threats as well as new value chains, enhanced and quickly-integrated products, economies of scale, cost-efficient and flexible network management capabilities etc. While such improvements call for a more sophisticated and advanced interaction between network/service providers, possibility of disintegration is an accompanying problem to be faced in future scenarios. As a matter of fact, there is neither a widely acknowledged regulatory attitude nor a standardized environment for ensuring effective competition across the world of next generation networks (NGNs). Significant developments at local level in parallel with introduction of multimedia services and IP-based networking facilities reminds that this issue will be handled in a more globalized context in future. Local solutions such as NICC (Network Interoperability Consultative Committee) could be temporary mechanisms to deal with lack of interoperability, whereas they could also mean future barriers against the collaborative design of standards and network interfaces across the globe or even in the Europe. This process also entails intervention of domestic authorities against the local level problems, either by competition agencies or regulatory authorities. While the latter is far more involved in tackling the network problems and remedies, unforeseen disintegrations that are hazardous to the markets could pave the way for the intervention of the former in case of market failure. While next generation broadband platforms are, first and foremost, subject to ex ante regulations, next generation core networks and standards are generally exempted from the typical ex ante measures aimed at promoting competition. This situation would make the exchange-level upgrades and hardware/software deployments open to the competition authorities’ measures which take the form of ex post intervention. While the natural growth of such network facilities would be addressed via the traditional co-existent mechanisms, the subordinated factors such as transparency problems in the course of standardization, and the widely recognized dilemma between innovation-enabling IPRs and competition-enhancing antitrust rules would affect problem solving in this process. From this point of view, finding the best way to solve prospective problems of NGN interoperability becomes more important and complicated. This is so because while authorities would look more closely to the interaction between market players and examine whether there is a possibility of market foreclosure in general, standard-setting processes make them turn their faces to transparency issues, IPR-related failures and FRAND compliance. In both cases, it is questionable as to whether competition rules may be sufficient to cope with different scenarios such in previous landmark cases. The former puzzles (e.g. Microsoft case) hardly and intriguingly solved via competition rules reveal an example of this hurdle, which lies at the centre of this study. In the light of such difficulties and unpredictable problems related to (non-)interoperability, the question of “to what extent competition interventions are allowed” needs to be answered in a certain and unequivocal manner pertaining to this specific area. Otherwise, future investments and ongoing efforts of globally acting entrepreneurs would be diminished, and far-reaching hazards would be in place thwarting NGN migration. Non-neutral activities, e.g. by delaying, degrading certain types of IP traffic, would be resulted out of such uncertainties. Within this study, it is reached to the conclusion that; in order to hinder such types unforeseen problems and to ensure fair competition and follow-on innovation, not only collaboration between the parties but also soft legislation (e.g. NGA Recommendation put into force by September 2010) is necessary in the course of migration process. On the other hand, it is proposed that co-regulation would be preferable to self-regulation for the prospective benefits and the ultimate aim of eliminating the possible risks that could arise in a fragmented or a centralized IP world.
Keywords: NGN, all-IP networks, interoperabilityworking papers series
Date posted: April 2, 2012
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