Highlights from ITS conference in Budapest

The International Telecommunications Society (ITS) held its 22nd regional conference in Budapest 18-21 September. Focus on the conference was innovative ICT applications, emerging regulatory, economic and policy issues. The conference attracted around 200 participants from academia, industry, operators, regulators and consultancies that altogether presented around 120 papers. The conference addressed a broad range of subjects such as competition, broadband (fixed and mobile), investments, spectrum, regulation, net neutrality and consumer behavior.

I would like to highlight three presentations at the conference. Firstly, Professor Mark Jamison, Director of the Public Utility Research Centre at the University of Florida, discussed differences and similarities between the regulatory framework in the US and Europe. Jamison underscored that the US have conducted diverse approaches, facilitated private monopolies through the common utility framework while Europe is characterized by the single market with sovereign states and a reform agenda. The point that Jamison stressed was that it is better for the market to have its development rather than the extensive ex ante regulation as in Europe. Jamison’s take is that the US regulators should give a green light to the pending AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile in the US.

Secondly, Karl-Heinz Neumann from WIK in Germany has conducted a major analysis of the ongoing migration from copper to fiber in the fixed market, developing an extensive model of a green-field fiber infrastructure in a hypothetical European country. The argument is that the current regulation preserves the copper infrastructure rather than promoting a broad deployment of fiber infrastructure in Europe. WIK argues that LLUB prices on copper should come down considerable from the current average in Europe around EUR 8 per month down to EUR 3-4. This should according to WIK propel a push for fiber investments in Europe.

Thirdly, Claudio Feijoo from the Technical University of Madrid, Spain addressed the question of the role of mobile communications in the Next generation Network (NGN) by illustrating the case of Spain and comparing net present value for investment in FTTH, VDSL and LTE. A high capacity LTE network would, according to Feijoo, require 37% more investment compared to VDSL, while demanding 16% lower investments compared to FTTH. But divided per user the total investment for a LTE network would be around EUR 500 per user regardless of geotype compared to EUR 350 per user in densely populated areas for FTTH, while up to EUR 2000 per user in sparsely populated areas implying that mobile has a cost advantage to fixed networks in sparsely populated ares. Feijoo underscores that there is a limit to the ability of wireless technology to be a full fledge competitor to NGN, but that there is room for wireless to play a role in medium speed uses or even higher at low density of population rural areas. Feijo concludes that wireless has advantages compared to fixed broadband as it avoids disruptive leaps required in fixed infrastructure, that it is a scalable solution for infrastructure in areas with low density of population, that it is a complement to NGN in almost any area. But in order to close the gap towards fixed infrastructure improvements have to done such as opening of additional spectrum, implementing more efficient spectrum management practices, use smarter radios to access appropriate frequencies and process signals more efficiently.

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