Across most developed economies, legacy copper networks are being replaced by new fibre networks. This will cause discontinuity as new services are introduced and old services phased out. For the incumbent (typically the operator of the legacy copper network), there is a strong incentive to migrate customers across to the new fibre network as quickly as possible as they would otherwise face the costs of operating the copper and fibre networks in parallel. It is therefore critical that all services are tested and checked for being suitable for provision on the new fibre networks and that vulnerable consumers are protected in the migration process. It is also important that the copper to fibre migration process does not in any way result in reduced choice for consumers (residential and businesses alike).
So it is likely that national regulatory authorities (NRAs) will have to get involved to set rules for protecting consumers and ensuring that there is no detrimental impact on competition as result of the move from copper to fibre networks.
Many competitive providers rely on access to the incumbent’s fixed network to provide their services. It is therefore critical that there are clear rules for how the change is communicated to consumers, such that it is competitively neutral.
Additionally, whilst the legacy copper network is typically owned and operated by the incumbent fixed services provider, new fibre networks are now being built by many providers, some in small local or regional locations, others on a much larger scale. In many locations, there will be more than one fibre network, in some even 3 or more competing fibre networks may emerge .It is therefore equally crucial that rules are set to ensure that the copper to fibre migration process cannot be used in an anticompetitive manner to in any way harm the business potential for the competitive fibre providers.
Copper to fibre migration is likely to be one of the most significant developments in fixed network and services competition for the coming few years, it is absolutely essential that NRAs pick up the associated challenges in a pro-active manner to protect consumers in the short, medium and long term.