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Consulting Services

Access and Interconnection

The successful interconnection of operators and their networks - i.e. the ability of those networks to economically and efficiently exchange end-to-end traffic - is fundamental to the success of a liberalised and competitive market. Without such arrangements, the customers of new-entrant operators would be unable to access the customers of existing established incumbents without the costly (and in most cases, unaffordable) duplication of infrastructure. Mobile telephone users would not be able to call fixed-line numbers, or vice-versa. Both consumer choice and the incentive for a competitive, market-led approach on the part of service providers would be curtailed if not lost altogether.

Interconnection, however, does not solely concern itself with the physical conjunction of networks. It also embraces issues such as the legal bases for agreements between operators, the rights and responsibilities of interconnecting operators, operational and technical standards, quality of service, accounting practices, billing mechanisms, infrastructure provision and fair competition. It is a subject which, in an increasingly-globalised and competitive communications environment, must be understood by network operators, service providers, equipment suppliers and regulators alike.

Over the past decade, much regulatory and commercial interest has been focused on providing competitive access to the lines between local telephone exchanges and individual customers – the so-called ’Local Loop‘ or ’Last Mile‘. This has been driven not only by the desire of non-incumbent operators to gain direct competitive access to end-users, but also by public policy encouraging the widespread provision of affordable broadband services. Local loop unbundling is increasingly a regulatory requirement for incumbent network operators, with a range of technical, procedural and financial nuances.

The exchange of traffic and sharing of circuits between operators obviously cannot be sustained without a suitable charging structure being in place, but this in itself can be complex to create and maintain. With interconnection charges accounting for a major part of new entrant operators’ costs, both they and regulatory authorities are keen to ensure that incumbent network operators demonstrate the fairness of interconnection costs and tariffs. Conversely, regulatory requirements must allow incumbents the opportunity to earn a fair economic return on assets used by competitors, especially where local access networks may be loss-making.

InterConnect Communications is ideally placed to help regulators develop and implement robust yet responsive interconnection regimes. Equally, we can assist all network operators and service providers – whether incumbents or new entrants, fixed or mobile, traditional or NGN – optimise their business position with regard to interconnection rights, obligations and responsibilities. Our team members are recognised experts able to call upon many years of collective experience in all aspects of interconnection, including interconnection policy, interconnection agreements, guidelines, Reference Interconnection Offers (RIO) and Reference Unbundling Offers (RUO), interconnect costs and prices, and tariff policy and regulation.