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Network access and interconnection

Regulation

What rules, requirements and procedures govern network-to-network access and interconnection?

Every operator of a public telecoms network will, on request, undertake to make an interconnection offer to other public telecommunications network operators.

In general, the the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) will impose access obligations on a provider with significant market power (SMP), which include:

  • granting fully unbundled access to the local loop;
  • interconnection;
  • open access to technical interfaces;
  • key technologies; and
  • provision of co-location and other forms of infrastructure sharing.

In exceptional cases, the BNetzA may impose such obligation on non-SMP operators which control access to end users in order to secure user communication and end-to-end connectivity.

Pricing

Are access/interconnection prices subject to regulation?

The BNetzA requires SMP operators to publish a reference offer which sets out the specifics of the access granted. Accordingly, Deutsche Telekom has published a reference interconnection offer which sets the market standards for all interconnections agreements in Germany.

The price for interconnection is subject to approval not only from Deutsche Telekom, but also from all telecom network operators. The BNetzA argues that even if the network is regionally very limited, the operator of such network has SMP with respect to their customers, which are connected to other networks only through the regional telecoms network operator.

In general, the BNetzA approves symmetric fees, which means that smaller network operators charge the same fees as Deutsche Telekom. Nevertheless, a smaller operator may achieve approval for higher fees if it proves that its cost structure differs significantly from Deutsche Telekom.

Disputes

How are access/interconnection disputes resolved?

If the conclusion of an access agreement (including an interconnection agreement) fails, and provided that one of the parties is required to grant access, both parties can apply to the BNetzA, which will order access, in principle, within 10 weeks.

Next-generation access

Have any regulations or initiatives been introduced or proposed with respect to next-generation access?

The Telecoms Act obliges telecoms providers to make offers (on written request) for the shared use of their infrastructure by operators of public telecoms networks if the infrastructure can be used to set up or develop next generation networks.

On the basis of the BNetzA’s Vectoring decision (2016), in future Deutsche Telekom will continue to be obliged to grant its competitors access to the unbundled subscriber line. However, Deutsche Telekom can refuse access to the subscriber line in areas where it has opened up its connections with the VDSL2 vectoring technology. It must then offer competitors certain substitute products. This part of the Vectoring decision was broadly criticised in Germany because it gives Deutsche Telekom an incentive to improve old copper cable in the ‘last mile’ (ie, from the street cabinet to the end user’s access point). This decision is considered to be one reason why only a few households and companies are endowed with a last mile fibre cable.

However, even according to the Vectoring decision, there is an exception to the refusal of access by Deutsche Telekom: a competitor can continue to access the last mile in a defined area if it is more involved in the digital subscriber line development of street cabinets than Deutsche Telekom. 

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