The issue of infrastructure sharing in telecommunications is extremely important for regulation. Since the resources used to provide the service are finite, whether in passive or active infrastructure, infrastructure sharing is a key element in promoting competition among market players, with a reasonable investment value and a fair price to be charged to the consumer.
In Brazil, a country of continental proportions, it is necessary to make infrastructure competition viable. Considering all public policies to promote the expansion of telecommunications in the country, it would be very important to take this into account when developing such policies.
Infrastructure-sharing policies that stand out
Among public policies that have favoured the sharing of infrastructure and networks, the following stand out:
The Brazilian Federal Government, represented primarily by the National Telecommunications Agency – Anatel – has historically been promoting and creating regulatory mechanisms to promote infrastructure sharing.
This regulatory premise was born with the General Telecommunications Law, and has evolved over the years through specific regulations for each aspect of infrastructure sharing.
The sharing of any finite means to provide the telecommunication service is a way of reducing the costs of investing in networks, increasing the value of the business, optimizing the allocation and use of infrastructures when duplication is impossible, and guaranteeing the compliance with regulatory obligations. Finally, it results in an improvement of the conditions of the service provided to the users.
As can be observed in Brazil, some infrastructure sharing is in full operation. This includes radio base station sharing, radio access network (RAN) sharing, national roaming, mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), and the sharing of electricity distribution poles.
The sharing of infrastructures that support telecommunications networks – after the edition of the Antenna Law (Law nº 13.116 / 2015), later regulated by the Revision of the old Resolution nº 274/2001 of Anatel that resulted in the Resolution No. 683/2017 – is mandatory in its excess capacity, except when the technical reason for the refusal is justified. Moreover, the established obligation foresees that aspects of urban, historical, cultural, tourist and landscape patrimony will be preserved. Here we sought a way of organizing municipalities without the unnecessary redundancy of infrastructure.
Increased use of RAN sharing – benefiting ICT sector development
Radio access network (RAN) sharing has been increasingly used due to its evident benefits for the development of the sector, as a way of optimizing the use of the scarcest resource the sector has: radiofrequencies. Radio spectrum sharing throughout the spectrum is one of Anatel’s spectrum management goals.
Radio-spectrum sharing is regulated by the Radio Frequency Spectrum Use Regulation, and the Radio Frequency Use Conditions Regulations, in order to guarantee the efficient, rational and adequate use of the resource under the LGT (the Brazilian general telecommunications law), as long as there is technical feasibility, and it meets the public interest and economic order.
National roaming is an obligation foreseen in infrastructure-sharing bidding documents, and competition is guaranteed within municipalities when the incumbent does not have an economic financial advantage over new entry players. This gives the consumer the power to choose a different operator from the sole operator who is physically present at the location.
With the promulgation of a specific regulation, approved by Resolution nº 550/2010, it became possible to exploit the Personal Mobile Service (SMP) – by SMP providers (mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs)), through a virtual network. This allows the existence of a greater number of personal mobile service providers in the market, with innovative proposals of facilities, conditions and relationship with SMP users. By offering a larger set of SMP providers, competition is favoured within the sector, which can reduce the users’ final costs.
Joint regulations for sharing electricity distribution poles
The sharing of electricity distribution poles by telecommunication service providers has always been a sensitive issue for the sector, since it is an essential infrastructure to support the construction of networks, besides being obviously essential to the energy sector, which uses them to distribute energy in municipalities. Thus, Anatel and the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) issued three joint regulations, approved by Joint Resolutions No. 001/1999, No. 002/2001 and No. 004/2014, to address the main issues of inter-sectoral relations, technical or commercial aspects.
It should be pointed out that, since it is an essential infrastructure to support the construction of networks, the amount that electricity distributors charge from telecommunication service providers for the use of each attachment point on the distribution poles directly affects the amount to be charged to users of the telecommunication service using the infrastructure.
This specific point is a constant debate among the sectors. It is important that the price is fair, equitable, and that it does not harm those involved, nor the distributors, to receive a reasonable rent value, and for the providers not to pay an exorbitant amount for the use of the infrastructure.
Therefore, among the forms of infrastructure sharing observed in Brazil, all have their regulatory burden, either to compel some sharing, or to favour another. Nevetheless, the regulator aims to establish the necessary basis for infrastructure sharing to the benefit of all stakeholders.
More importantly, it is always advisable to foster competition in the sector, thus favouring the final consumer, either with an improvement in the quality of the service, or with a possible reduction in the prices charged by the sector.