Telcos unite in fight for fair prices

Hong Kong Standard

Georgine Lee

Several leading telecom operators including Britain's Cable & Wireless, AT&T and StarHub have formed a regional coalition to attack anti-competitive pricing.

The Asia Pacific Carriers Coalition (APCC) hopes to work with government regulators in the region to develop policies that are conducive to new investments and encourage competition.

APCC president Joseph Welch said one way to do that is to work with these regulators to restrain price squeezing by operators, who have the network to wholesale to other service providers and are themselves telecom retailers.

Welch is also the regional director of regulatory affairs for MCI, the second-largest long-distance service provider for United States residential customers and a global IP network carrier.

A main priority on the agenda for APCC, Welch said, is to tackle the issue of incumbent carriers raising the barriers for new entrants.

"In Hong Kong, the rate for local-leased circuits is probably the highest in the region, excluding Japan, and the business customers are being hurt by it, he said.

Already, APCC members have made some early successes by making Singaporean telecom regulator, the Info-communications Development Authority (IDA), aware of the problem, as the IDA forced incumbent SingTel to reduce its last mile rate of the dedicated leased line by 30-50 per cent.

Welch said that more than 80 per cent of the buildings in Manhattan are still served by one network provider, but their local leased circuit rate is lower than that of Hong Kong.

Next week, APCC members will speak at a telecommunications working group conference in Singapore. They will introduce a regulatory assessment model, or a ``scorecard'' to government delegates.

The ``scorecard'' system aims to measure the regulators' effectiveness in areas such as consistency, dispute procedures and timeliness.