The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) welcomes the European Commission’s clearance, received on Thursday, 14th December, of its assessment of competition in a wholesale physical infrastructure access (PIA) market and wholesale broadband markets and its proposed regulatory framework governing these markets.
ComReg’s assessment of competition in these markets focuses on determining whether any service provider has significant market power (SMP) that would allow it to adversely affect market outcomes.
The European Commission agreed with ComReg’s assessment that Eircom has significant market power, and in order to ensure fair competition it gave the green light to continue regulating the next generation fibre lines that Eircom rents out to retail telecom companies.
The European Commission welcomed ComReg’s wholesale pricing proposals noting these should encourage ongoing investment and innovation in next generation broadband services, including Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH), with ComReg’s most recent Quarterly Key Data Report (QKDR) (ComReg Document 23/114R) showing that at the end of Q3 2023, FTTH was the most commonly purchased broadband technology in Ireland (38% of fixed broadband lines).
Ensuring fair competition means that ultimately, consumers can benefit from having a wide choice of service providers offering high quality next generation broadband services at competitive prices.
The European Commission made one comment on ComReg’s assessment which ComReg will address in its final decisions to be adopted and published in Q1 2024.
Notes to editors
In January 2023 ComReg issued two Consultations (see ComReg Document 23/03 and ComReg Document 23/04) setting out its assessment of competition in the above wholesale broadband markets and its proposed regulatory framework governing these. Following the conclusion of the public consultations in March 2023, and having considered respondents’ submissions, on 14th November 2023 ComReg notified the European Commission of its assessment of competition in two wholesale broadband access markets and the PIA market (which relates to the provision of duct and pole access) (see ComReg Document 23/105 and ComReg Document 23/106). The services provided in these markets by telecoms service providers are bought by other service providers, ultimately to supply retail broadband and other services to residential and business consumers.
Under the notified proposals now cleared by the European Commission, ComReg identified that Eircom has SMP in two wholesale broadband related markets, namely a Wholesale Local Access (WLA) and a PIA market, and that it should be subject to a range of regulatory obligations. Such obligations include requirements for Eircom to provide wholesale access to its network on a non-discriminatory basis, and subject to a price control framework.
ComReg has proposed to continue to allow Eircom pricing flexibility to set wholesale FTTH broadband prices at any level it chooses (subject to certain rules with respect to below cost selling, notification periods and compliance with competition law requirements as the case may be). ComReg has also proposed to relax the current obligation which banned wholesale pricing discounts and so, subject to pre-approval from ComReg, Eircom may offer discounted prices for wholesale FTTH broadband services.
ComReg’s proposals also identified that existing SMP regulation of the wholesale central access (WCA) broadband market was no longer required and obligations on Eircom could be withdrawn. Similarly, ComReg considers that regulation of certain copper broadband services is unnecessary, given the expected continuing shift towards Next Generation FTTH services over the coming years.
Prior to adopting a final decision, ComReg (like all National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) across the EU) is required to notify the European Commission of draft measures that it proposes to adopt. As set out above, on 14th November 2023 ComReg notified the European Commission of its draft measures, which ComReg published in parallel on its website (see ComReg Document 23/105 and ComReg Document 23/106). The European Commission has 30 days within which to issue its decision on its review of an NRA’s draft measures. The European Commission has the power to issue ‘serious doubts’ on notified draft measures and can, in some cases, veto proposed regulatory intervention by an NRA. The European Commission can also (and frequently does) provide comments on regulatory proposals and NRAs are obliged to take ‘utmost account’ of these.
ComReg will address the European Commission’s comment on ComReg’s notified proposals (which related to geographic assessment criteria in the WLA market) in its final decisions which will be adopted and published by ComReg in Q1 2024.
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