Multiple reports out of Europe have the likes of FT, DT, Telecom Italia, and Telefonica sitting down to discuss the pooling of their network infrastructure. EU regulators are said to be behind the concept generally, aiming to shift from many markets still so fractured by national boundaries into a more unified whole that would be more healthy overall.
The idea that it is inefficient to build many parallel networks and that this is undermining the infrastructure investment needed to keep pace with the public’s appetite for data has been out there for a while, whether you call it functional separation, network sharing, or whatever. But EU support or not, trying to get these guys to agree on something like this will make herding cats while wearing a Teletubby suit lined with tuna and a catnip hat look easy.
But the real problem is the details, because when one doesn’t have any it’s easy to talk about sharing in the abstract. For one thing, the discussions are very unclear about what parts of the continent’s infrastructure would be shared. Are we talking wireless towers/masts, backbones & rings, last mile, or various combinations thereof? And for that matter, why are only incumbents invited to this ‘make us more competitive party’?
Then there’s the question of who gets the investment dollars of the combined, more efficient entity. Where does the single wholesale entity start putting more into FTTH first? Maybe they can use the Google method, and make cities/countries beg for it.
I expect this utopian telecom daydream to fizzle quickly, especially when they start talking about how it will let them more easily make content providers pay for it all. Network sharing on a more limited basis seems sure to grow though, and M&A activity still seems likely to pick up.