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ARCEP Conference on Mobile Economics Paris, 26 March 2007 ‘Should mobile termination rates differ?’ Martin Cave. Warwick Business School, UK Issues . When should an NRA set differential rates for mobile operators? Should they converge? If so, over what period?

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Warwick business school uk martin cave wbs ac uk

ARCEPConference on Mobile EconomicsParis, 26 March 2007‘Should mobile termination rates differ?’Martin Cave

Warwick Business School, UK



  • When should an NRA set differential rates for mobile operators?

  • Should they converge?

  • If so, over what period?

  • How are the Commission and NRAs addressing this issue?



Commission comments to NRAs on symmetry-eg

-period of asymmetry must be justified, ‘based on a cost model which takes into account costs of an efficient operator and the complete process of adequate accounting information to be provided by all MNOs’

-NRA is invited to monitor the cost structures and assess whether its current assumptions on ‘fair and reasonable prices’ will remain relevant.


Approach taken here
Approach taken here:

Four possible regulatory objectives(some ambiguous)

  • achieve cost orientation/recovery

  • mimic a competitive market/achieve competitive parity

  • promote statically efficient prices

  • promote dynamic efficiency


Some differentiating factors i
Some differentiating factors I

  • Differential X-inefficiency

    not a good basis for differential rates!

  • Quality of service differences

    - cost-reflective

    - consistent with competitive outcome and

    with efficiency-enhancing prices

    - incentive problems under CPP


Some differentiating factors ii
Some differentiating factors II

  • Different frequencies/spectrum charges

    i) with competitive spectrum markets, or

    ‘opportunity cost’ prices: no problem as prices take the strain

    ii) with arbitrary fees or historic valuations: allow cost recovery or promote efficiency/competition


Some differentiating factors iii
Some differentiating factors III

D Location of traffic

-Should geographically-based termination cost differences be incorporated, as detemined by cost function?

-Impact depends on pass-through to retail prices

-Call-by-call differentiation not feasible, but operator-by-operator differentiation promotes cost orientation and competitive parity


Some differentiating factors iv
Some differentiating factors IV

  • Peak and off-peak demand : where termination charges are reflected in retail charges, peak-load charges promote efficiency

  • Different termination technologies: incentive needed to use termination mode which is cheaper in aggregate; if 3G justified overall, then a blended rate is justified for cost recovery


Some differentiating factors v
Some differentiating factors V

G-H Different start dates/market shares

Dynamic efficiency argument: competitive advantage required for late-comers for sake of long-run end-user benefits

Precedents include OPTA’s ‘delayed reciprocity’ in fixed termination rates and Ofcom’s WBA margin squeeze restrictions

Justification should relate to effective start date in the first instance, not market share


The cost benefit analysis of intervention for dynamic purposes
The cost-benefit analysis of intervention for dynamic purposes

Factors which influence the decision include:

-entry date gap and time elapsed

-maturity of market

-expected technological and regulatory developments

-switching costs

-impact of traffic asymmetries



Treatment of switching costs
Treatment of switching costs purposes

Evidence that ‘slow’ mobile number portability (MNP) has a weakened/ insignificant effect on churn (Lyons 2006), whereas

‘fast’ MNP lowers prices and increases churn

Combined with contract length, this permits calculation of period of effective switching needed to neutralise earlier entry


Unbalanced traffic
Unbalanced traffic purposes

Relative size does not skew inter-operator termination cash flows where traffic is balanced

Where it is unbalanced, excessive termination rates disadvantage operator with a trade ‘deficit’

Combined with low on-net prices charged by ‘surplus’ operators, this can tip deficit operators out of the market (and may even breach competition law)

Is this a basis for differentiation?


Conclusions i
Conclusions I purposes

Some grounds for differentiation are unexceptionable

-higher quality

-higher costs from geographical factors

-time-of day traffic differences

Others are more debatable

-coexistence of different networks


Conclusions ii
Conclusions II purposes

Problems arise with inclusion of dynamic factors

- regime 1:differentiation can sustain inefficient operators dependent on regulatory favours, which do not benefit end-users, OR

-regime 2:differentiation for a short period may prevent numbers in the long-term going down from 3 to 2 or 4 to 3.

Possible solution lies in estimating realistic period of ‘hope’ for regime 2 to operate, and committing and sticking to differentiated rates acordingly.