Is Symmetric Access Regulation a Policy Choice? Evidence from the Deployment of NGA in Europe

COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES, no. 98, 2nd quarter 2015, p 17

25 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015

See all articles by Tony Shortall

Tony Shortall


Martin Cave

London School of Economics

Date Written: April 1, 2015


Regulation in Europe has rested heavily on the historic monopolist asymmetrically providing its competitors with access to its own copper local loop. When the regulation of fibre loops was contemplated, the European Commission initially proposed in 2008 that Next Generation Access (NGA) regulation should rely on good access to passive infrastructure, in order to facilitate competitive network build-out; this would be accomplished by discouraging copper upgrades (vDSL) relative to fibre to the home (FTTH). By the time the 2010 Recommendation was promulgated, the Commission had changed its position dramatically, putting upgraded copper on an equal footing with FTTH and deciding that virtual access products should be available everywhere. Some countries notified their national regulatory decisions in the period between the two Commission positions. We identify France, Spain and Portugal as examples of countries which followed the Commission's initial position, and Belgium, Germany and the UK as adherents to the Commission's later approach. The impact of the different regulatory approaches can now be assessed. Both approaches achieve the stated objectives of widely available NGA. However, from a wider policy perspective the two approaches differ significantly in the form of competition that evolves in upgraded copper and FTTH markets. The access-based competition observable on upgraded copper is completely dependent on the regulator granting a form of (usually) upgraded bitstream access and on the financial terms of such access. In FTTH countries by contrast, alternative operators have achieved independence through their investments, thereby laying the basis either for deregulation or for symmetrical regulation of local access networks. The availability of these outcomes is particularly important in the context of the forthcoming review of the EU Regulatory Framework.

Keywords: telecommunications regulation, access regulation, FTTH, vDSL, symmetry

JEL Classification: L51, L52

Suggested Citation

Shortall, Tony and Cave, Martin, Is Symmetric Access Regulation a Policy Choice? Evidence from the Deployment of NGA in Europe (April 1, 2015). COMMUNICATIONS & STRATEGIES, no. 98, 2nd quarter 2015, p 17, Available at SSRN:

Martin Cave

London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom
07958483709 (Phone)

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