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Europe needs to 'change the rules' for broadband providers

Friday, October 24th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

New competitors for current broadband service providers could "fire the starting gun" in the race to develop networks, according to telecoms equipment firm Calix.

Craig Thomas, director of international field marketing at the company, said it would take competitors challenging the "incumbent" service providers, as had happened in the United States, to generate the same levels of progress.

Mr Thomas said once a major competitor, or even a number of smaller competitors, took on incumbents such as BT, it would start a snowball of progress.

His comments echoed those of Andy Lockhart, senior vice president of international sales at Calix, who said Europe is lagging far behind North America and Asia in developing its broadband infrastructure.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk at the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Mr Thomas said, "Yes you've got catalysts in the US - Google Fibre was one of those catalysts.

"Basically you've had people who wanted to change the rules, they wanted to be competitive, its the same in Asia, we're seeing this again in Australia and New Zealand now.

"And even in Africa they're saying 'gigabit capable', because what they're basically saying is 'we're investing in infrastructure that's going to be around or years and years to come'.

"In Europe in a way we haven't got that competition.

"For example, BT offer infinity where its possible and everyone else is quite happy to resale that product under their own brand, they're not changing the rules as a competitor."

He said there were pockets, including in the UK, where communities impatient with waiting for BT were fitting their own networks, but it needed a combination of competitors - large or small - as well as education of consumers.

He added, "So that's one of the main things, it's the catalyst, you need a competitor, and I think as soon as you get one person changing the rules, like Google did in the US, then it will be a snowball.

"And then there's the education aspect.

"That's what we've seen in the US, it's a more competitive environment. You get cities saying, 'we want to be the next Google city', and then the AT&Ts and others have to react.

"So it will become a race because it needs that gun to go off, if you like, at the start of the race for something to happen.

"And that gun is going to be somebody changing the rules and being a threat to the incumbent."

Earlier this week Andy Lockhart said Europe needs to foster a major effort to keep pace with North America and Asia developing its broadband infrastructure.

He said, “While there are some pockets of activity in gigabit broadband in parts of Europe, mostly in the UK where alternative operators have started to build their own fiber offerings because the market is underserved by the incumbent, the continent as a whole is far behind other parts of the world.

"Europe does not have the same competitive imperatives as the US, where there is much more healthy competition between the telcos and the cable operators which is driving the need to build bigger, faster networks."

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