The Dutch regulatory authority OPTA has today issued a
Position Paper in which it addresses the plans of the incumbent operator KPN to
deploy VDSL2 from 28000 street cabinets, to provide voluntary access (mainly
sub-loop unbundling and Ethernet VLANs) and to close and sell off most of the +/-1300
locations at which KPN currently provides access to alternative operators for
the purposes of local loop unbundling from the Main Distribution Frames (MDFs). 

OPTA generally welcomes KPN's objectives and plans, which,
it considers, will lead to better and more services, lower costs, and
continuing investment in innovative technologies by KPN and by competitors.
OPTA also repeatedly highlights the opportunities it sees for reducing
regulation over time as progress is made towards achieving genuine and
sustainable competition. 

OPTA states explicitly that it has issued the Position Paper
to provide ‘regulatory guidance to enable market participants to determine
their strategy and make business plans', even though the proposals contained in
the document are in fact only at the consultation stage. 

OPTA indicates its intention to develop policy rules
(‘beleidsregels') which will impose a series of conditions upon KPN. 

The essence of the envisaged rules, focusing on the conditions
surrounding the phasing out of MDF locations, is as follows:

  • KPN may not initiate the phasing out process of MDF
    locations until OPTA has approved KPN's reference offer for sub-loop unbundling
    (unbundling the access network from street cabinets).

 

  • The phasing out process for a specific MDF location will
    have to be initiated by means of an announcement on KPN's website, a written
    communication to the companies that take MDF access at that location, and a
    written notification to OPTA.

 

  • KPN must grant MDF access takers a reasonable phasing
    out time. This means that MDF access and co-location takers will have to have
    had a reasonable time (proposed to be set at 5 years) to depreciate the one-off
    fees for co-location paid to KPN for that location, and a reasonable time
    (proposed to be set at 2 years + 3 months) for carrying out the migration
    process from MDF access to sub-loop unbundling. The timeframe that KPN will
    have to respect for each individual location would be 2 years + 3 months unless
    the timeframe for depreciating co-location investment of some of the
    alternative operators present at that location is longer (maximum 5 years).

  • KPN and takers of MDF access are to be entitled to
    agree different timeframes for each specific location. KPN will then have to
    publish on its website for which locations alternative arrangements have been
    made, what those arrangements entail, and notify these to OPTA.

 

  • When KPN has announced the phasing out of an MDF
    location, this must in principle lead to the migration away of all parties (KPN
    and all altnets) from that location.

 

  • Alternative operators may, at all times, continue to
    request unbundled access at existing MDF locations. KPN is to be required to
    make a formal phasing out announcement, and within the principles set out
    above, may limit the duration of MDF access supply to the remaining part of the
    phasing out process.

All the points listed above are expressed
quite firmly in the Position Paper, but they are OPTA's intentions/proposals, and
are open for consultation until 3 Nov 2006. 

The Position Paper also touches
upon other issues, including fibre-based backhaul from street cabinets
(installation of altnet cables in empty ducts, dark fibre, transmission
capacity services - with a strong preference expressed by OPTA that altnets would build/have their own backhaul infrastructure rather than rely on KPN for backhaul), wholesale bitstream access (which KPN is proposing to
provide voluntarily even if it is not subject to regulation), etc. 

OPTA also indicates that it
intends to re-initiate the market analysis of Market 11 (unbundled access) and
Market 12 (wholesale broadband access) and to assess to which market(s)
backhaul from sub-loop unbundling locations belongs, with a view to being able
to determine the appropriate obligations during the process of phasing out MDF
access. 

T-REGS Note: Although this is not
stated totally explicitly by OPTA, it is clear that OPTA is tending towards
defining a regulatory framework that gives few alternatives to altnets to using
sub-loop unbundling and building/using backhaul infrastructure that is not supplied by KPN, and that OPTA is considering mandating wholesale broadband access perhaps for a
selected subset of locations (rather than merely accepting voluntary provision
by KPN) for a time-limited period. A definitive position on wholesale broadband
access will be reached through the market analysis exercise, and is likely to
remain outstanding for up to 1 year. As regards backhaul from sub-loop
unbundling locations, it appears that OPTA gives preference to discussions
within the Industry Group that deals with sub-loop unbundling before considering
mandatory provision. 

OPTA also announces in today's
Position Paper that it is developing a ‘business case' for altnets using
sub-loop unbundling, and that it is going to conduct research into the
relevance of the UK's ‘equivalence' model (whereby BT has created a separate
OpenReach unit). 

The 53-page OPTA Position Paper
(in Dutch only) can be accessed by clicking here.

A 3-page Management Summary (in
Dutch only) can be accessed by clicking here.

For a discussion of regulatory
developments in The Netherlands, please contact Yves Blondeel  or  Alexa Veller .