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Structural Separation versus Vertical Integration: Lessons for Telecommunications from Electricity Reforms


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


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 telecommunications. 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 (e.g. separated retail and infrastructure functions) indicate exposure to similar complications intensifying many of the contractual risks arising from regulated access arrangements. In both sectors competition between vertically integrated providers appears more likely to efficiently and sustainably induce both investment and competition than separation.

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  • Howell, Bronwyn & Meade, Richard & R. O, Seini'Connor, 2009. "Structural Separation versus Vertical Integration: Lessons for Telecommunications from Electricity Reforms," Working Paper Series 4029, Victoria University of Wellington, The New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation.
  • Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwcsr:4029

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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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