Thursday, January 26, 2006

Anglo - German conflict

Now in my final session before heading to the airport - a review of regulation. T-Com's head of regulatory affairs has been setting out DT's rationale for asking for regulatory relief on fiber investment. Nigel Hickson from the DTI in the UK has followed by stating unequivocally the view of DTI that it is 100% opposed to DT's stance, claiming that it would take regulation back to the 1980s and 90s, and that the benefits of competition are clear even to visitors from other planets (his words, not mine). The air is so thick you could cut it with a knife, and I expect them to scratch each others' eyes out after the session.

T-Com's regulatory head has also denied that DT has actually received any direct approach for third-party participation (referring to press reports of a EUR500m offer of assistance from United Internet).

Malcolm Matson of the OPLAN Foundation has just said that, broadly speaking, the EU has taken a policy formulation approach of consulting first about disruptive technologies with those most likely to be disrupted. The vested interests argue for a gradualist approach, and also assume that they will remain part of the picture in the future, which is inconsistent with the lessons of history. The long term investment appetite is there to support projects and business models which look and smell like commercial real estate projects. Those might not be the models which the incumbents seek to defend. By defending the old, we may be mortgaging our futures.

UPDATE: I tried to update this post during the session, but got a message that Blogger was down for maintenance - such is the price of relying on web-based services, but whaddaya want for free? Now at Vienna Airport with free WiFi. In the second part of the regulation session there was an account of the EU meeting with industry players on Tuesday in Brussels to take stock of the EU Regulatory Framework. The scene painted was one in which the presiding Commissioner opened the floor to comments, and was greeted by a torrent of complaints from one incumbent after another, with little pause for breath or alternative viewpoints. The consensus of attendees at this meeting was that BT stood out as a carrier with a pragmatic view of regulation and how to adapt to its constraints. There was some speculation as to whether this is connected to the OFCOM Strategic Review and BT's OpenReach compromise.

Malcolm Matson stated that he thought it arose from a recognition from early on that the world was going IP - i.e., it is in BT's DNA. My meeting with Peter Cochrane (former BT CTO) a couple of weeks back suggests that maybe this DNA is no longer quite so pure as it once might have been, but it does indeed survive in some form. Maybe it's a function of BT being somewhat less structurally complex than others by virtue of not owning a mobile network, and thus less prone to muddled, conflicted and desperate thinking (someone told me recently that a certain executive of a European fixed line operator stated at a recent conference that, due to his plans for a FMC product launch, 2006 would be the year when "we take out our mobile sister company." How's that for an "integrated operator strategy"?)

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