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Belgium to Open Up Cable, Fibre Networks to More Competition
Source: telecompaper.com
Source Date: Monday, July 10, 2017
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government, Institution and HR Management
Country: Belgium
Created: Jul 10, 2017

Belgian telecom regulator BIPT and the regional media regulators in Belgium have proposed opening up the wholesale broadband and TV market further, saying the current level of competition in the fixed market is falling short. The draft decision calls for opening up the cable networks Telenet and Voo further to include also fixed telephony and also looks at making incumbent Proximus provide wholesale access to its FTTH network. 

Proximus, Telenet, Brutele and Nethys (Voo) and Coditel (SFR, since acquired by Telenet) are confirmed as dominant operators that must offer alternative operators access to their networks. In addition to maintaining the current requirements such as non-discrimination and transparency, BIPT proposed a new pricing structure for wholesale access. Operators will still face a cost orientation obligation, but cable and fibre networks may charge "fair" prices, with a margin higher than costs, in order to stimulate investment in high-quality infrastructure. 

In addition, the BIPT is proposing a new geographical application of the regulation, with a lighter touch in areas where at least three operators offer speeds of more than 30 Mbps. To define these areas, the regulator would also take into account co-investment plans by multiple operators. Areas with limited access to high-speed services, that is only 5 percent of households covered, would also benefit from reduced regulation, in order to stimulate investment in rural parts of the country. 

The new proposals follow the implementation of wholesale access to cable networks in the last broadband decision from 2011. Since then Orange has started providing fixed services over cable networks across the country, but has struggled to build a large customer base due to its inability to offer a traditional triple-play plan. Its offer only includes broadband and TV, bundled with its mobile services. BIPT is proposing requiring wholesale access to EuroPacketCable, so alternative operators can also offer fixed telephony. 

The wholesale obligations could also be extended to Proximus' fibre network, which it last year said would be substantially expanded. Several options are proposed for fibre access, ranging from passive access, enabling the alternative operator to install its own equipment, to active access, if the passive access option is technically or economically impossible.

Orange, which has also invited Proximus to cooperate on fibre roll-out, called for improvement in the regulation and a quick implementation. While it welcomed the proposed strengthening of non-discrimination obligations, the operator said the market needs to move to a 'cost-plus' method for setting wholesale prices rather than the current 'retail minus' in order to ensure alternative operators can compete. Based on its own analysis of the market and prices in other countries, it wants a a reduction in the cost of wholesale cable access to around EUR 10 per customer per month. 

The proposals are open for public comment until 15 September.
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