EC approves Belgian wholesale regulation proposal

EC approves Belgian wholesale regulation proposal

The European Commission (EC) has approved the proposed regulation on the Belgian wholesale broadband and broadcasting markets.

The approval was given in comments on the proposal of the Conference of Belgian telecom regulators (CRC) to impose regulations on Proximus and other regional cable operators.

The CRC assessed the competitive conditions in the retail and broadband and broadcasting markets, and found that the market shares are distributed among a limited number of operators and prices are above competitive levels. As a result the regulator feels that it is necessary to impose wholesale regulation on the main operators Proximus, Telenet, Nethys and Brutélé in order to address these competition problems.

Included within this regulation is the obligation of Proximus and the other regional operators to provide access to their respective networks, so that the smaller operators and players on the market who do not own a fixed network can compete by offering fixed telecoms services to its customers.

Further still, CRC finds that wholesale access on Proximus and other cable networks are not substitutable products and therefore defines two separate wholesale ‘central access’ markets for each of the two types of network infrastructure which are copper/fibre or coaxial cable. In each of these two markets CRC had identified an operator with ‘significant market power’ that should be regulated. Therefore Proximus will be made to open up the fibre network it is currently rolling out across Belgium while Telenet, Nethys and Brutélé are also being made to continue to provide wholesale access to their coaxial cable network, which is currently being used by Orange.

In its comments the EC criticised the CRC’s definition of ‘central access’ markets saying that normally it is possible for alternative operators to switch between different networks if commercial access conditions change and so it would have been better to include access to both types of network as part of the same market.

The commission goes on to say that it does not block the CRC’s new proposal because it has demonstrated, through its joint dominance analysis, that there are competition problems as it relates to coordinated refusal of access to networks on reasonable terms and the commission would implement similar regulatory terms based on their own analysis.

In addition the EC offered its views on the long-term dynamics of the Belgian broadband and broadcasting markets and the CRC will now have to take these comments into consideration as it prepares its final measures which will be published over the coming months.

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