The GSMA today announced the findings of a new report, “Wholesale Open Access Networks”, which examines the performance of the wholesale open access network (WOAN) model (also known as single wholesale network or SWN) in five markets around the world: Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Rwanda and South Africa. This report, which follows up on a 2014 study that assessed the potential economic case for implementing the wholesale network model, found that, in the countries examined, there was only one network rolled out, with all other markets plagued by slow progression and delayed and/or cancelled launches.
“Policymakers in countries considering a move to a wholesale open access network for 4G services may believe they can achieve greater network coverage compared with models that rely on network competition. However the research published today demonstrates that this is not the case,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “We have found that network competition produces faster and more extensive network coverage, and the examples highlighted in the report indicate little evidence that a SWN/WOAN is likely to achieve this.”
For decades, policymakers have favoured a competitive network structure, licensing network usage to a limited number of competing mobile network operators, usually under private ownership. This approach has resulted in unprecedented growth and innovation in mobile services; the industry has already connected more than 5 billion people globally, including 3.8 billion people in developing countries, providing access to tools and applications that address a wide range of socioeconomic challenges.
To expand network coverage, mobile operators are already looking at ways to balance competition with co-operation in infrastructure investment by entering voluntarily into infrastructure sharing agreements. They are also exploring new business models with third parties to share the cost and risk of investment in rural and remote locations. The benefits of network competition go well beyond coverage; innovation is a key driver of consumer value at the national level, and this occurs where there is competition amongst networks as well as in the delivery of services and the launch of devices in a market.
“We are concerned that a move to wholesale networks will harm consumers, as history has demonstrated that network monopolies normally result in high prices and lower investment in infrastructure,” added Giusti. “With this in mind, we call upon governments looking to implement a SWN or WOAN to instead support the ability of mobile operators to enter into infrastructure sharing agreements on a voluntary basis and consider how they can apply market-friendly spectrum assignment methods to maximise coverage, using appropriate spectrum license conditions to extend mobile services to underserved areas.”