On 2 January 2001, the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Unbundled Access to the Local Loop (2887/2000/EC) entered into force. According to this regulation, public telecommunications network operators with significant market power (generally, the national incumbent operators) on the local loop market, shall provide for unbundled access to their local loops and associated facilities. In order to take account of this regulation, the Austrian Regulatory Authority Telekom-Control Kommission ("TKK") on 12 March 2001 passed new decisions concerning access to the last mile. Even though the obligation of operators with significant market power to grant access to their networks or unbundled parts thereof (in particular the local loop) already existed under Austrian law prior to the enactment of the regulation (section 37 of the Austrian Telecommunications Act; decision of Telekom Control Kommission, Z 1/99, dated 2 July 1999; see related reports in CTLR 1999), the new unbundling orders issued by TKK (Z 12/00, Z 14/00 and Z 15/00) were necessary because the preceding orders expired on 30 September 2000. On this occasion, the Regulatory Authority took account of the European Regulation and introduced new provisions as to unbundling of the local loop.
Apart from the fees payable to Telekom Austria, the Austrian incumbent fixed operator, which will only remain valid until 30 September 2002, the general orders will remain effective for an indefinite period of time. Alternative network operators and service providers may apply to use all transmission systems used by Telekom Austria and its affiliates as well as other systems on subscriber lines. Applicants may also apply for the use of unbundled parts of the subscriber lines. Alternative providers may now use the access for the provision of voice telephony, leased line services, data services and, in particular, broadband and fast Internet services.
The most significant items newly adopted in the decision(s) are the gradual reduction of monthly charges for access to the local loop (or the sub-loop) from EUR 12.35 to EUR 10.90 as from 1 January 2002, penalties in case Telekom Austria (the Austrian Incumbent) fails to meet the deadlines for unbundling, space limits in the assignment of collocation rooms, and – most importantly – unbundling of parts of the local loop ("sub-loop unbundling").
Apart from the previously possible full unbundling of the local loop, i.e., the use of the subscriber line from the main distribution frame ("MDF") to the network termination point ("NTP"), this line can now be divided into five segments which may be used individually or in combination with any other segment (main distribution frame ("MDF") – greenfield distribution frame ("GDF") – in-house distribution point – floor-level distribution point – network termination point ("NTP")).
With sub-loop unbundling now being possible, new collocation variants are thus available to telecommunications operators. As it was standard in the past (full local loop unbundling), collocation took place at the main distribution frame ("MDF") operated by Telekom Austria (either by way of physical collocation, by way of using an outdoor container, by using an outdoor cabinet or by distant collocation). Depending on the unbundled part of the local loop in the particular case, collocation may now take place at the so-called handover distribution frame ("HDF").
· In case the unbundling partner owns a separate switching cabinet, the HDF may be placed inside this equipment placed by the unbundling partner adjacent to the relevant switching unit of Telekom Austria.
· In other cases, HDF is placed within the relevant Telekom Austria switching unit. Then Telekom Austria provides the collocation and in addition, connects the cable supply by the unbundling partner with the corresponding sub-loops.
· A third variant of collocation with sub-loop unbundling is direct access of the unbundling partner to the in-house cabling used by Telekom Austria. In this case the subscriber line is separated from the last switching unit (in-house distribution point or floor-level distribution point). The line is removed from Telekom Austria´s switching cabinet and handed over to the unbundling partner outside Telekom Austria´s switching unit to be connected to the unbundling partners or network. In such case, the responsibility for maintenance and fault clearance of the in-house cabling handed over consequently lies with the unbundling partner.
Area Limits in the Assignment of Collocation Rooms
Another important point in the Authority´s decision relates to collocation, i.e., the paid use of a separate room in Telekom Austria´s switching premises. In order to prevent the shortening of space capacity by the hoarding of collocation space, the size of the collocation rooms to be rented is now restricted to a maximum of 22 sqm. However, this upper limit may only be assigned to the unbundling partner if the dimension of the used tie cable requires such space and only if the total space at the main distribution frame available for collocation purposes is larger than 40 sqm. Otherwise, only as much space as necessary may be assigned to the unbundling partner.
With this decision(s) Austria very rapidly implemented the European unbundling regulation nationally in a uniform decision. The orders will provide the basis for negotiating access to the local loop for all alternative network operators, which will have a substantial repertoire of local loop parts to choose from.