Regulators: major influencers in telecoms?

Ask anyone in the world of telecoms who are the most significant influencers in the market, and I’m sure we’d hear some familiar names cropping up again and again.

From AT&T to Alcatel-Lucent, from Sprint to Singtel, from Google to GlobeNet, from Cisco to Cable & Wireless, we could all easily run through the alphabet of major telecoms players. But I’m beginning to wonder if there are others major telecoms players that we need to take into consideration.

I’m referring to the regulators. For example, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and DoJ, after more than five months of deliberation, have finally given the go ahead for Level 3 to purchase Global Crossing. It seems a little indelicate at this point to refer to AT&T’s failure to secure the same permission when it came to its acquisition of T-Mobile, but it has of course been major industry news.

The FCC has a much broader remit than managing mergers and acquisitions, of course. Its universal service fund, which is committed to improving rural connectivity in the US, has led to the development of America’s Broadband Connectivity plan, with its new project the Connect America Fund. These proposals are all having significant knock-on effects – some good, some bad – for many players in the US market.

Regulators aren’t just a major influence in the US, of course. Having just completed the cover story on pricing, one of the most common opinions expressed by players in the telecoms market was the impact regulators are having in Europe. By consistently pushing for termination costs to become cheaper, European regulators are fundamentally changing the model adopted by telecoms businesses in the region.

But perhaps most importantly, while there is such variation in the nature of regulation between developed and developing countries – until there is an international level playing field of regulation – the idiosyncracies of regulation will continue to be a challenge for the telecoms industry.

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