Well-functioning mobile services are crucial for the Netherlands. Data consumption in 2019 increased by more than 30% compared with 2018, and more than tenfold compared with five years ago. This growth will continue over the next few years. In addition, it is also important that mobile phone coverage becomes more reliable, and that it is of high quality everywhere in the Netherlands. This will ensure that telecom operators will make investments to increase quality, and expand capacity and coverage of the mobile networks.
Collaborations between telecom operators may help ensure that such investments are done responsibly. However, they cannot come at the expense of mutual competition. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has published draft guidelines for consultation. These guidelines contain guidance for telecom operators on how they are able to collaborate, while ensuring that investments in capacity, quality and coverage of the mobile networks are done in an efficient manner.
Acquiring sites for antennas
It is becoming harder and harder for telecom operators to find sites for antennas. This is caused by the growth in the number of mobile antennas, and by the decreasing availability of sites. Given these circumstances, it could help if operators stopped searching for the scarce sites independently of each other, and joined forces instead. ACM does not expect competition between operators to be jeopardized if they started working together to find sites. Since operators use their own equipment at these sites, they are still able to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Leasing and renting out spectrum
The new Dutch Telecommunications Act offers the opportunity to lease and rent out spectrum (frequencies for mobile data traffic). Renting out frequencies to, for example, an operator of local business networks could lead to new services and increased competition. Starting with the upcoming spectrum auction (which will be launched on June 29), the maximum number of frequencies that a single operator can use will be capped. ACM is of the opinion that this cap will ensure that, in the majority of cases, competition will not be jeopardized.
Roaming using 2G or 3G networks
Over the next few years, the Dutch telecom operators will shut down their 2G and/or 3G networks. This may impact services that rely on these networks such as smart energy meters or older generations of mobile phones. If an operator that shuts down a 2G or 3G network is able to use, for example through roaming, the network of another operator that still offers 2G or 3G, it will then be ensured that 2G and 3G continue to be available for devices that rely on those networks.
Submitting your opinions about these guidelines
ACM offers interested parties the opportunity to submit their opinions about these draft guidelines. These opinions will be taken into account when finalizing the guidelines. Please submit your opinions no later than August 14. Please send them to leidraad [punt] sharing [at] acm [punt] nl or to:
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets
Telecommunications, Transport and Postal Services Department (TVP)
P.O. Box 16326
2500 BH The Hague
22-06-2020 Consultation of draft guidelines regarding the sharing of mobile networks (in Dutch)