Telcos using 3D tactics: delay, deny and degrade

Foot-dragging by large telcos is creating a global pattern of failures that hinder competition, according to the head of an international telecomms user community.

Dominant players, many of them former national monopolies, have elevated to an art form "3D" tactics: delay, deny and degrade, according to International Telecommunications User Group executive director Ewan Sutherland.

"They say they can't do it [open a service for competition], then they say it is too difficult and then they degrade the service.

"Litigation benefits the guys with the deep pockets so they will delay cases with the regulator as long as they can, then take it on appeal to whichever court they can.

"In Europe we've had cases ending up in the European Court of Justice, which can take four to five years.

"In the UK it is quicker to get a divorce than it is to get a number transferred, Germany has 19 flavours of local-loop unbundling and it can take 200 days to deliver a leased line in The Netherlands."

Sutherland cites international leased line charges, local loop unbundling, number portability and mobile phone roaming as prime problem areas.

Similar concerns have led Australian Telecommunications User Group national managing director Rosemary Sinclair to warn of stalled competition and re-monopolisation dangers in the local market.

The trend is spurred by telecomms industry's hard times which have cost 750,000 jobs worldwide so far this year, Sutherland told the Atug Queensland 2001 Conference.

"It could get a lot worse, because the mobile phone companies in particular must show they have a workable business model and it is not clear that they do."

Financial markets have worked out there is no money to be made in 3G; WAP has been a disaster and the GPRS rollout is not proceeding smoothly, he claims.

The collapse of high tech share prices has forced telcos to maximise revenues and they are reacting by building cartel-like structures in markets such as global roaming.

"An operator in one country lets its customers be ripped off by an operator in a second country and then adds 25 per cent to their bill when it comes back," Sutherland says.

"There is currently no incentive in the market for anyone to reduce roaming prices."

In terms of broadband penetration per 100 inhabitants, Australia ranks well down the list according to Intug figures.

As of mid-2001, Australian broadband availability was about half a per cent compared with more than two per cent for Singapore and well behind leaders South Korea (14 per cent) and Canada (six per cent.).

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