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Structural separation versus vertical integration: Lessons for telecommunications from electricity reforms

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  • Howell, Bronwyn
  • Meade, Richard
  • O'Connor, Seini

Abstract

Structural separation between network and retail functions is increasingly being mandated in the telecommunications sector to countervail the market power of incumbent operators. Experience of separation in the electricity sector offers insights for policy-makers considering telecommunications reforms. Despite apparent competitive benefits, the costs of contracting increase markedly when short-term focused electricity retail operations are separated from longer-term generation infrastructure investments (which require large up-front fixed and sunk cost components). The combination of mismatches in investment horizons, entry barriers, and risk preference and information asymmetries between generators and retailers leads to thin contract markets, increased hold-up risk, perverse wholesale risk management incentives, and bankruptcies. Direct parallels in the telecommunications sector indicate exposure to similar complications, intensifying many of the contractual risks arising from regulated access arrangements. Thus, as in electricity, competition between vertically integrated telecommunications providers would likely induce more efficient and sustainable investment and competition than would separation.

Suggested Citation

  • Howell, Bronwyn & Meade, Richard & O'Connor, Seini, 2010. "Structural separation versus vertical integration: Lessons for telecommunications from electricity reforms," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(7), pages 392-403, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:telpol:v:34:y:2010:i:7:p:392-403
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anderson, Edward J. & Hu, Xinin & Winchester, Donald, 2007. "Forward contracts in electricity markets: The Australian experience," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 3089-3103, May.
    2. Willems, Bert & De Corte, Emmanuel, 2008. "Market power mitigation by regulating contract portfolio risk," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 3787-3796, October.
    3. Lynne Chester, 2006. "THE CONUNDRUMS FACING AUSTRALIA's NATIONAL ELECTRICITY MARKET," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 25(4), pages 362-377, December.
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