ComReg is required to publish a strategy statement every two years setting out, inter alia, its strategic priorities for the next two years and how ComReg proposes to achieve these. There are no real surprises in the current draft Statement, with ComReg identifying the following four high-level goals for 2014-2016:
Protect and empower consumers Promote sustainable competition Facilitate innovation, investment and the internal market Be an effective and agile organisation However, as with everything the devil is in the detail. In achieving these goals, ComReg will have to strike a careful balance between maintaining the ongoing increase in retail competition, and at the same time encouraging increased investment at a wholesale level particularly as regards Next Generation Access (NGA) networks.
Key trends in the Irish telecommunications market
The draft Statement provides a useful summary of key trends in the Irish telecommunications market along with ComReg's approach to date and its proposed strategy going forward. Those familiar with ComReg's Quarterly Key Data Reports will already be up-to-speed with most of these trends, which include:
the continued growth in use of IP-based services and increased take up of advanced services and over-the-top applications (eg, Skype, WhatsApp) The ongoing pressures on the Irish economy are expected to further underline the prevalence of these IP based low cost / free services over the next few years. In terms of regulatory challenges, ComReg has indicated that it will consider the implications of VoIP services on the framework for regulation of wholesale and retail services. With this in mind, it seems a consultation can be expected although the timing is unclear given the number of other consultations currently in the pipeline.
the increased demand for high speed data services in both urban and rural areas and how the Government's next National Broadband Plan might serve to narrow the urban/rural gap eircom and UPC have already made significant investments in NGA/fibre networks able to support high speed broadband. To date ComReg has largely relied on private sector competition to drive network investment and constrain retail prices. However ComReg recognises in its draft Strategy that there is not the same case for commercial investment in less densely populated areas and that additional support may be needed in the form of State funding so as to avoid a widening of the urban /...