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Lower telephone bills for everyone, but KPN remains dominant

In spite of a large number of new customers, KPN Telecom still has a very large market share in various areas. Nevertheless, telephone charges fell for all consumers in 1999 thanks to an increase in competition and OPTA’s supervision. If inflation remains constant, KPN’s tariffs will drop by a further 10% until 2002. The choices available to consumers have increased, with the result that callers have been able to reduce their telephone bills by using carrier selection companies. Considerable investments are also now being channelled into the telecommunications sector: NLG 4.5 billion in 1998 and NLG 9 billion in 1999. Employment rose from more than 40,000 to almost 50,000 employees. This is revealed in OPTA’s so-called market monitor, a research system which the regulatory authority uses to monitor and survey developments in the telecommunications market. OPTA presented figures taken from its market monitor for the first time in its annual report for 1999.

All types of callers who obtain their landline services from KPN have become better off in the past year. If we start at the basic call subscription plan (BelBasis), we can see that frequent callers were about NLG 140.00 better off last year. The corresponding figure for average and Internet callers is several tens of Dutch guilders. Placing calls through carrier select companies can add a great deal more to this: almost NLG 100.00 in the case of average callers and almost NLG 290.00 per annum for frequent callers.

The benefits are even greater for small business. In the past year the telephone bill of a small business fell by NLG 659.00. Those using carrier select were able to add a further NLG 1,250.00. OPTA anticipates that calls from landline to mobile phones will drop significantly. The charges are quite high, certainly if you consider the tariffs charged for calls from mobile to fixed phones.

Switching is relatively easy in the Netherlands

Amongst other things, OPTA has examined how easy it is for a telephone subscriber to switch to another telephone service provider in the Netherlands. This is an indication of the speed at which competition can develop. On an international scale, the Netherlands tariffs quite highly in this respect, keeping pace with Germany and the United Kingdom. Switching is relatively straightforward here thanks to the introduction of carrier selection, number portability and recently carrier preselection.

Also competition in relation to infrastructure

The Netherlands has also boosted competition with regard to the establishment of networks thanks to the so-called restoration of equilibrium which occurred in July 1998. At the time KPN raised subscription tariffs to bring them into line with the actual costs involved. At the same time it was possible for it to lower call charges by 25%, because the latter no longer included payment for connections. A number of businesses established their own networks mainly in the Randstad conurbation, predominantly to provide direct connections for bulk users. The provision of telephone services via cable (broadcasting and otherwise) is gradually getting off the ground.

Mobile telephone services

The degree of competition varies from one subsidiary market to the next. It should be clear to everyone that there is a great deal of competition with respect to mobile telephone services, which has had the effect of reducing tariffs. KPN has lost part of its share of this market, which is experiencing a spectacular tariff of growth (doubling to 6.8 million telephone owners), and now holds approximately 50%. Libertel is the other major player with a market share of approximately 30%.

National telephone calls: carrier selection

It is now possible to call a subscriber outside one’s own local call area through dozens of carriers. At present 16% of telephone subscribers are utilising this alternative (double the figure for 1998). The introduction of carrier preselection will increase these companies’ market share even further.