Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bite sells 1000 Toxic cards, MicroLink deal stumbles

Well, Bite Latvija just sold more than 1000 of its Toxic cards. Good for them, nevermind the name, just count the money. We will see what they roll out next.
Meanwhile, the Latvian Competition Council has demanded that Lattelekom sell the data transmission business of MicroLink if it wants to acquire the company (together will Estonia's Elion and Lietuvos Telekomas, both majority owned by TeliaSonera). The problem is – Lattelekom and the other were most interested in the data business. So who will buy in? Possibly only another major operator, who will then have to be satisfied with a rather small market.
The problem faced by the competition authorities in a case like this is that this runs contrary to the economies of scale in the telecoms industry as well as the, call them, economies of convergence. A competitive operator has to be a) with a large if not global network b) with all possible services from fixed to internet to mobile. The Latvian government with its insistance that Lattelekom and Latvian Mobile Telephone be sold to different owners, and that MicroLink be sold without its data transmission business is going against these trends. This is probably not the way to get more competition, regulatory rules are a better answer, making the large networks open and equally accessible to others, not chopping the networks and operators up into Lilliput-size units (on a global scale) and then hoping that there will be serious competition among dwarves.
Look at it this way - what economies of scale does a Lattelekom (fixed line only) with around 600 000 customers have against Tele2 on the cost side? Tele2 buys network equipment on a revenue base of 30 million customers and on a much larger scale. Can Lattelekom cut the same deal and reduce its costs? Probably not. The same question can be asked regarding TeliaSonera, which is no giant on the world scale.
There is no way that one can have small and competitive telecoms companies EXCEPT in a regulatory environment where the large global networks are open to all at a small cost/plus tariff and competition is based on niche services and efficiency of operations. So the future, perhaps, lies with virtual operators of one kind or another.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't see either how fragmenting infrastructure might help in cost/ price reduction and improved service provisioning