I recently came across a very interesting post
on the subject of competition in OFC roll outs. This well written post by Paul Budde argues that (in the Australian context but extrapolating through examples to the international context) either we do not really need infrastructure competition in OFC infrastructure or at least it is not a very practical possibility. He cites USA and Europe as examples of lack of nation-wide
fixed line competition.
It would take much more than a blog post to analyse his arguments but I would like to make one simple counter argument. Why must we have a nation wide network? In vast countries like India, USA and Australia even regional or sub regional fixed networks would be a feasible option. In non viable areas, competitive service provision may be seeded by Universal service funding. Please see my post on the Indian USOF model at Broadband Networks through the Infrastructure Sharing Route.
This model did succeed in creating potential competition to the incumbent with USOF subsidy even in a remote region of the country. Other posts on infrastructure sharing
could also be viewed.
Perhaps the inability to fathom such a model comes from historical reasons wherein in almost every country the incumbent managed to protect its monopoly by harping on the economies of scale issue and the best option with the state was to regulate prices etc. Regulating monopolies cannot solve inefficiency and lack of drive to innovate that plagues all monopoly service provision. Readers are invited to read my previous posts on NBN
. Today both networks are delayed and mired in roll out problems. There is a news item
about NOFN planning to impose heavy penalties on its vendors who are delaying roll out. Need I say more. I have written earlier cautioning against the faddish nature of national broadband plans
and the fact that they are likely to recreate monopolies with the usual set of associated problems.
Also, unlike Mr Budde, I am not so sure that mobile networks can ever be considered perfect substitutes for fixed lines. European regulators seem to agree with me.
I do agree that service level competition is very critical, but as far as competition
in broadband goes, if it is there at every level-all the better.