Competition in Wireless Telecommunications: The Role of MVNOs and Cable’s Entry into Wireless
Michelle Connolly, Ph.D.; Duke University
Prof. Connolly’s research demonstrates that cable companies are competing aggressively in the mobile broadband market as a new class of operators: hybrid mobile network operators (HMNOs). HMNOs deploy a novel approach that both resells service from wireless players and uses the cable companies’ high-capacity network facilities and their expansive WiFi hotspot networks to deliver high-quality service to potentially tens of millions of customers nationwide. Amid the deployment of 5G and with the ability to offer connectivity in bundled packages to consumers, cable’s unique approach to wireless is changing the competitive dynamics of the market. Prof. Connolly argues that regulators need to recognize these new wireless operators when defining the wireless market and evaluating marketplace transactions.
Future of Broadband Competition in a 5G World
William Lehr, Ph.D.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Lehr’s research finds that the considerable financial, technical and operational resources necessary to build next-generation 5G networks will require smaller mobile network operators (MNOs) to add significant scale in order to compete in 5G. Drawing on decades of experience researching competition and regulation in the telecommunications industry, Dr. Lehr analyzes how the move toward 5G is driving the convergence of fixed and mobile broadband and creating new avenues for competition between fixed and mobile providers. Dr. Lehr argues that three balanced MNOs of comparable size, as opposed to four unbalanced MNOs, is the best path forward as stronger MNOs will more effectively promote innovation and competition across the broadband ecosystem.
The Effects Of Rapid Technological Change On Regulatory Policies In The Communications Sector
Robert W. Crandall, Ph.D.; Technology Policy Institute
Dr. Crandall’s research demonstrates that regulatory intervention in the telecommunications sector during periods of industry convergence and rapid technological advancement can have negative effects on consumers, competition and the marketplace. Dr. Crandall reviews four notable examples and concludes that it is often nearly impossible in dynamic industries, such as telecommunications, for regulators to foresee developments that end up drastically altering the market. These predictive failures render regulations created during that time ineffective. Amid the current period of wireless industry transformation, including the rollout of 5G and successful entrance of new competitors (cable and tech companies), Dr. Crandall suggests that regulators should be cautious and not implement regulation that may impede investment in new technology and innovative services that could ultimately benefit consumers.
WiFi Helps Define The Relevant Market For Wireless Services
Harold Furchtgott-Roth, Furchtgott-Roth Economic Enterprises
Dr. Furchtgott-Roth’s research assesses how networks of WiFi hotspots have increasingly come to handle most of the “wireless” traffic in the United States. He critiques the FCC’s definition of the “mobile telephony/broadband” market, which excludes WiFi. While that decision may have made sense when the FCC first defined the term back in 2008, it is no longer correct in 2018. In today’s market, 60% or more of wireless data from mobile devices passes through WiFi and consumers regularly switch from cellular data to a WiFi network. Dr. Furchtgott-Roth suggests that WiFi’s ubiquity makes it a substitute for cellular networks. He concludes that regulators should consider the everyday practice of connecting to the internet using WiFi when analyzing the mobile broadband market.