While visiting Germany earlier this month (Expo 2000 in Hanover), by far the most important news was that the country had won the honour of hosting the World Championship Soccer in 2006.
However, there were also some interesting bits of news in relation to our industry. Here follows a news roundup from Europe:
First I have to share with you my disappointment that there was no public Internet access available in my 500+-room hotel, nor was there any at the international airport. As my laptop was being repaired I was depending on public access. It just goes to show that Germany is still lagging on the information highway. (This fact has been further established by research data from Forrester, indicating that e-commerce in Germany is 50% less than in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.)
3G auction Germany
The telecommunications Regulator has confirmed that the action date for 3G spectrum will be 31 July – this despite the withdrawal of three of the eleven bidders. The Regulator played down earlier expectations that the auction of the four to six licences would bring in DM120 billion. If prices were to come even close to this amount it would have a significant effect on the success of 3G wireless technologies in competing with wired access technologies.
3G auction Netherlands
In the Netherlands the auction process started while I was over there. On the preceding day two more bidders had withdrawn (Hutchison and NLT) and the arena now contains six bidders and 5 licences. The expectation, based on the UK process, was DFL10 billion (AU$8 billion), but it is believed that the end result will be less than half of this. By the time I left the country the process was still slow and had only just reached DFL1 billion.
Unbundling of local loop
The European Commission has launched a set of new telecommunications plans, which include the unbundling of the local loop. The Commission hopes to have its final legislation in place before the end of the year. This would make it possible to introduce the service before the end of 2001. France and Germany have already passed legislation and will open these markets well before this date.
Other elements of the proposed regulations include a location service on mobile systems for emergency services, at no extra cost. However, for privacy reasons customers will have to opt-in in order to use the service. Calling Line Identification (CLID) and other telephone numbering issues are also discussed in the proposed plans.
Partnership deal Netherlands
The partnership between Dutch KPN, NTTDoCoMo and Hutchison caused a big stir in the industry. Together they will tackle the burgeoning mobile market in Europe. The deal was welcomed in the Netherlands as it will provide the Dutch incumbent with its much-needed platform to branch out into Europe. Like most European telcos KPN knows that it will have to expand internationally in order to survive. In the meantime Deutsche Telekom further positioned itself for a major acquisition (or acquisitions) in the USA and Telefonica (Spain) bought one of the Netherlands’ largest entertainment companies, Endemol.
Wireless loop licences France
In France two new companies First Mark Communications France and Fortel secured national licences for wireless loop services. Both are consortia from various French business groups. Furthermore each of France’s 22 national regions and 2 overseas regions received two licences for regional services.
Developments regarding ADSL
There were angry reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung about Deutsche Telekom’s (DT) handling of its DSL service. The pricing structure is complex and still in a state of flux.
There are now close to 100,000 users, of which DT has the majority. Currently the service is limited to ISDN and is offered through a surcharge to this service. This, however, is set to change.
Customer service is another problem area, as DT has been accused of making this too complex by not providing an installation service and by trying to make the user responsible for all ADSL problems, causing frustration amongst their customers.
AOL and other providers will not be able to provide DSL services until later this year.
As for the rest, people are beginning to get into the holiday mood in Europe, with the arrival of summer – in spite of the fact that during my stay the north European summer temperatures were below the Australian winter ones!