According to Mr. Witold Graboś - the President of the Office of Telecommunications and Post Regulation: “The role of URTiP is to enable competition on the market. Alternative operators have to make use of the chance with an active support of the regulator”. This opinion was presented on December 10 during a meeting with representatives of 18 independent telecommunications operators. This very first meeting with operators who were granted telecommunications authorizations in 2002 was an occasion for alternative operators to exchange their opinions and expectations just before the day of opening international phone-connections market.
Despite a difficult financial situation new operators are developing their own access networks and connecting new users. They also create main lines to be able to deliver long-distance services and to offer international connection after January 1st 2003. In their opinion liberalization of the Polish market came at least five years too late. This fact caused present difficulties with rising capital for investments in telecommunications sector and troubles with reaching the client (“last mile”). Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. uses all legal possibilities to delay free competition in the most profitable sectors of the telecommunications market. This situation took place in the case of opening the long-distance market in 2001 and similar threat can be observed currently in the forthcoming international phone-connection market liberalization planned for January 1st 2003.
Although most alternative operators are new companies they have already gained their share in the Polish market. Now, they expect more energetic actions from URTiP and more effective regulations. The biggest problems consist in prolonging negotiations related to network connection and cost-sharing agreements by TP S.A. on the ground of procedural reasons. Moreover TP S.A. is very reluctant in terms of collocation with the alternative operators demanding excessive charges for lease. The situation of independent operators is also difficult because of the fact that TP S.A. has not presented a framework interconnection offer for an approval by the President of URTiP so far. “Without an intervention of the regulator small operators can disappear from the market” - a representative of the alternative operators said.
According to some CEOs from the alternative operators, who were present at the meeting, the Polish telecommunications market regulator should be an active observer of negotiations between TP S.A. and operators, and should have larger possibilities of an effective intervention in case of prolonging negotiations. In some cases the interconnection negotiations have been lasting even for several months or more (According to the Telecommunications Law in case when the agreement has not been reached within a three months period, interested party can apply to the President of URTiP for an arbitrage).
The President of URTiP expressed his dissatisfaction with effects of liberalization of the telecommunication services market. “When I became the President of the Office, the Telecommunication Law was in fact still-letter and all decisions were opposed by TP S.A. Regulatory mechanisms are new and this is the reason for their low efficiency in the face of long-lasting legal procedures”.
In the present market situation an effective competition with TP S.A. is impossible in sectors in which the dominant operator has strong position. Thus in the future the competition development will amount to developing new sectors of the market or introducing new technologies. However it is to remember that according to the President – Mr. Graboś: “for its own interest TP S.A. should not destroy competition just to come back to an absolute monopoly”.
It should be the common practice of the Polish telecommunications market to apply to the regulator in the situation when an alternative operator has not signed a contract with TP S.A. and statutory deadlines for negotiations passed. URTiP is absolutely determined to introduce healthy liberalization of the Polish telecommunications market. On the other hand there is a need for greater activity of the new operators and presenting opinions during the whole legislation process and during works on preparation of executive regulations. The alternative operators must have possibility to propose legal solutions on every stage of a legislative process.