ComReg to curb mobile operators’ power

9 Jun 2004

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has decided to designate Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3 as having significant market power on their own networks and therefore will impose a number of obligations on the carriers to ensure transparency and efficient pricing in the mobile voice termination business.

In a statement yesterday evening, ComReg said that following an investigation into the marketplace it found that the market for voice call termination services on mobile networks in Ireland were not competitive.

It decided that the four main operators – Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3 – could be defined as having ‘significant market power’ on their own networks.

From its research ComReg says it concluded that mobile voice call termination rates in Ireland need to be cost-oriented and has proposed a number of ways to reduce call termination charges to efficient operator levels to ensure that consumers get the best value for money.

It said that it has already taken into account that Vodafone and O2 have already committed to voluntary reductions in their termination rates and that Ireland’s mobile termination rates are low in comparison with other EU countries.

In its report ComReg said it: “believes that the imposition of access, transparency, non-discrimination and cost-orientation remedies are the minimum obligations necessary to achieve efficient pricing in the mobile voice call termination market.”

Among the proposed remedies is an order compelling all operators to ensure that other operators can access one another’s networks as opposed to the present situation of access based on individual negotiations. ComReg also proposes that mobile network operators must also provide reasonable network access for traditional PSTN companies wishing to terminate voice calls.

In terms of getting greater transparency into the marketplace, ComReg has proposed that all operators must make public specified information such as accounting information, technical specifications, network characteristics, user contract conditions and prices. It argues that the benefits of doing so outweigh the cost to the operators.

ComReg also decided to introduce universal non-discrimination obligation to all operators. This obligation currently rests on O2 and Vodafone ensuring that interconnection agreements with other providers cannot have a materially adverse effect on competition or allow players to distort the marketplace. The fact that, despite the two biggest players meeting this obligation, there are still competition issues in the marketplace has encouraged ComReg to make it universal to all service providers.

By John Kennedy