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Network Issues. Introduction. Some products are popular with individual consumers precisely because each consumer places a value on others using the same good A telephone is only valuable if others have one, too

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network issues

Network Issues

Chapter 24: Network Issues

introduction
Introduction
  • Some products are popular with individual consumers precisely because each consumer places a value on others using the same good
    • A telephone is only valuable if others have one, too
    • Each user of Microsoft Windows benefits from having lots of other Windows users
      • Users can run applications such as Word on each other’s computers
      • More applications are written for operating systems with many users
  • Network Effects or network externalities reflect such situations in which each consumer’s willingness to pay for a product rises as more consumers buy it
  • Strategic interaction in a market with network effects is complicated

Chapter 24: Network Issues

monopoly provision of a network service
Monopoly Provision of a Network Service
  • An early model by Rohlfs (1974) illustrates many of the issues that surround markets with network effects
    • Imagine some service, say a cable network, where consumers “hook” up to the system but the cost of providing them service after that is effectively zero
      • The provider is a monopolist and charges a “hook up” fee but no other payment
      • The basic valuation of the product viis uniformly distributed across consumers from 0 to $100. Consumer willingness to pay is fviwheref is the fraction of the consumer population that is served
      • The ith’s consumer’s demand is:
      • qiD =

0 if fvi < p

1 if fvi p

Chapter 24: Network Issues

monopoly provision of a network cont
Monopoly Provision of a Network (cont.)
  • Consider the marginal consumer with basic valuation
  • The firm will serve all consumers with valuations greater than
  • Solving for the fraction f of the market served we have:

f = 1 -

= 1 – p/100f

  • So, the inverse demand function is:

p = 100f(1 – f)

Chapter 24: Network Issues

monopoly provision of a network cont1
Monopoly Provision of a Network (cont.)
  • The inverse demand curve has both upward and downward sloping parts. This means that there are two possible values for the fraction of the market served at any price p.

$/unit = p

25

20

15

10

5

0

$22.22

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 f

fL fH

Chapter 24: Network Issues

monopoly provision of a network cont2
Monopoly Provision of a Network (cont.)
  • The Rohlfs model makes clear many of the potential problems that can arise in markets with network effects
  • 1. The market may fail altogether
    • Suppose the firm must set a fee over $30 perhaps to cover fixed costs
    • Network will fail even though it is socially efficient
      • When half the market is served, the customers hooking up have vi‘s that range from $50 to $100 or fvi values that range from $25 to $50
      • Average value is then $37.50, well above $30
      • But as p rises to $30, f falls and so does average willingness to pay
      • There is no price at which sufficient numbers of consumers sign on that yields an average willingness to pay of $30

Chapter 24: Network Issues

monopoly provision of a network cont3
Monopoly Provision of a Network (cont.)
  • 2. There are multiple equilibria
    • At p < $25, there is more than one equilibrium value of f
    • Thus, at p =$22.22 both fL(p) = 1/3 and fH(p) = 2/3 are possible values of f
    • Lower fraction may be unstable (tipping)
      • This group is comprised of consumer with top one-third of vi values
      • The addition of one more consumer will raise willingness to pay sufficiently that consumers with the next highest third of vi values will be willing to pay and we will move to the fHequilibrium
      • The loss of one consumer will lower the willingness to pay of that same top one-third and demand will fall to zero at p = $22.22
    • If the firm needs to serve more than one-third of consumers at a price of $22.22, fL is called a critical mass.
      • Low or free introductory pricing
      • Lease and guarantee that if critical mass is not reached, refund given
      • Target large consumers with internal networks first

Chapter 24: Network Issues

networks complementary services and competition
Networks, Complementary Services, and Competition
  • Rohlfs model is a monopoly model but has clear insights for oligopoly setting
    • Market may fail
    • Competition will be fierce—a firm that fails to reach a critical mass isn’t just smaller than its rival—it dies
    • Multiple Equilibria are possible, e.g., Betamax versus VHS—either system and not necessarily the best one may be the winner

Chapter 24: Network Issues

systems and standards competition
Systems and Standards Competition

Competition between networks does not always lead to one survivor

  • Each network may have its own system
    • Compatibility issues
    • What is gained and lost when consumers cannot use their brand of the product on other systems?
  • Competition to be the Industry Standard
    • Firms may compete to have their system adopted as the industry standard
    • What are the implications of standards competition?

Chapter 24: Network Issues

competition and technical compatibility

Fear of being incompatible can

lead to the inferior Nash Equilibrium—

neither firm switches because it

thinks the other won’t switch

Both switching to the new technology is a superior Nash Equilibrium

Competition and Technical Compatibility

Both staying with the old technology is a Nash Equilibrium

The fight over compatibility can lead to poor technical choices overall

Two possible problems are Excess Inertia and Excess Momentum

Excess Inertia

Firm 1

Old Technology

New Technology

Old Technology

(5,4)

(2, 2)

Firm 2

New Technology

(1, 5)

(6,7)

Chapter 24: Network Issues

technical compatibility cont

Both switching to the new technology is a Nash Equilibrium

Both staying with the old technology is a superior Nash Equilibrium

Again, fear of being incompatible can

lead to the inferior Nash Equilibrium

Technical Compatibility (cont.)

In the case of excess inertia, each firm wants to adopt the same technology as its rival but, fearful that the rival won’t switch to the new technology, each wrongly stays with the old

It is also possible that there is Excess Momentum and each wrongly switches to the New Technology

Excess Momentum

Firm 1

Old Technology

New Technology

Old Technology

(6,7))

(2, 2)

Firm 2

New Technology

(1, 5)

(5,4)

Chapter 24: Network Issues

systems competition and industry standards
Systems Competition and Industry Standards
  • The Excess Inertia and Excess Momentum cases apply to market settings where the network gains from compatibility and “connectedness” are large
    • both firms want to adopt a common technology
    • Difficulty in agreeing which technology both should use
  • Sometimes firms will not have a preference to make their technology the common standard or not to have a common technology at all
    • Different technologies loses compatibility
    • But different technologies differentiates each product and softens price competition, e.g., PlayStation 2 vs. Gamecube vs. X-Box

Chapter 24: Network Issues

technical compatibility cont1

Firm 1 choosing technology 1 and Firm 2 choosing technology 1 is the Nash Equilibrium preferred by Firm 1

  • STRATEGIES:
  • build an early lead by establishing
  • a large installed base; and 2) convince
  • the suppliers of complements to
  • adopt your preferred technology

Firm 1 choosing technology 2 and Firm 2 choosing technology 2 is the Nash Equilibrium preferred by Firm 2

Technical Compatibility (cont.)

Assume there are two technologies, Firm 1’s technology 1 and Firm 2’s technology 2

In Battle of the Sexes firms still agree that there should be a common standard but each wants its own technology to be the standard

Battle of the Sexes

Firm 1

Technology 1

Technology 2

(8,12)

(5,4)

Technology 1

Firm 2

(6,5)

(10,7)

Technology 2

Chapter 24: Network Issues

technical compatibility cont2

STRATEGIES similar to before.

build a large installed base of the

preferred technology with your name on it;

and make sure that you have lined up suppliers of

complements so that you are the one who

gets to adopt that technology

Firm 1 choosing technology 1 and Firm 2 choosing technology 2 is the Nash Equilibrium preferred by Firm 2

Firm 1 choosing technology 2 and Firm 2 choosing technology 1 is the Nash Equilibrium preferred by Firm 1

Technical Compatibility (cont.)

Again, assume there are two technologies, technology 1 and technology 2, but technology 2 is probably better

In Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the firms want to differentiate their products by choosing different strategies but each wants to be the one with the superior technology 2

Tweedledum and

Tweedledee

Firm 1

Technology 1

Technology 2

(3,3)

(6, 7)

Technology 1

Firm 2

(8, 5)

(2,2)

Technology 2

Chapter 24: Network Issues

technical compatibility cont3

There is no Nash Equilibrium (in pure strategies)—Firm 2 may

frequently change or update

its technology to lose its “little brother”

If Firm 2 chooses technology 1 then Firm 1 wants to adopt technology 1, too

If Firm 2 chooses technology 2 then Firm 1 wants to use technology 2,

as well

Technical Compatibility (cont.)

What they really care about is differentiating their products by choosing different technologies

In Pesky Little Brother, Firm 2 is the dominant firm (big brother) that wants to limit competition from Firm 1 (little brother) by adopting a different technology. Firm 1 always wants compatibility

Pesky Little

Brother

Firm 1

Technology 1

Technology 2

(12,4)

(16,2)

Technology 1

Firm 2

(15,2)

(10,5)

Technology 2

Chapter 24: Network Issues

systems competition and industry standards1
Systems Competition and Industry Standards
  • Public policy in the presence of strong networkk externalities is complicated
  • Low introductory pricing and bundling of complements may look like anticompetitive practices but are really just necessary to survive
  • Decreeing a common standard forces government to choose the winning standard. Governments are not necessarily good at picking winners
  • Should governments try to coordinate technology choices or, instead, “let a thousand flowers bloom”

Chapter 24: Network Issues