I am growing a little tired of the various claims emerging in the industry regarding Open Access. So I have decided to write this article to explain exactly what is Open Access (as defined by the Australia Government and other international organisations) and what it is not.

First where did the term originate? This is a hard question to answer as it is perhaps different within each region of the world. The first time I heard it used was in 2005 at a presentation to the FTTH Council's annual conference by UTOPIA. But I am sure a number of European operators may also state their claim for the creation. According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by Roberto Battiti on 2003 in his article "Global growth of open access networks: from warchalking and connection sharing to sustainable business."

Irrespective of who first used it, it has become a term which is now being in appropriately used by some sectors of the industry to they claim to the "openess" of their network. The full term is actually "Open Access Network" or OAN and in telecommunications, it refers to a horizontally layered network architecture but more importantly it is a business model for a telecommunication carrier in which the network owner/operator is seperated and independant of the retail service providers who deal with the end customer.

Fundimentally the OAN business model is based on a three layer structure of Network Owner, Network Operator and Retail Service Providers although the most common approach around the world is where the Network Owner and Operator are frequently merged together to improve efficiency and reduce the operating costs of the model.

Most importantly in this model is the premise that the Network Owner/Operator does not compete at the retail level. If a network owner is to compete against others at the retail level there will always be claims (whether valid or not) of favoritism, anti competitive conduct and theft of customer data, thus to eleminate this all together and create a level playing field for all retail providers it is best for the network owner/operator to exclude themselves from the retail sector.

When the National Broadband Request for Proposals was released in April 2008, some carriers took it upon themselves to start making claims of already providing an Open Access Network - when in fact they where not - so show their compliance with Government strategy. This lead to a clarify of the Government's position on this term with a more robust definition early this year, thus the words "wholesale only" was added whenever the term was used. So "Open Access, Wholesale only" makes it very clear what is required and that the two or three layer business model is followed ensuring a fair and level playing field for all access seekers.

Perhaps the best and most robustly defined Open Access Network model is that of the Singapore Government's National Broadband Initiative., although UTOPIA has been delivering Open Access Networks in the United States since 2001/2002 (I think). There is also the i-nec declaration of Open Access Networks, which is interesting readying and developed by a group of Cities rather than carriers.

So to clarify the confusion out there, if a network operator is providing both wholesale and retail services, this is not an Open Access business model, but Vertically Integrated with wholesale access business model.


At 07 September, 2009 21:47 Anonymous said...

I've been searching the net quite a bit, but I cannot seem to find anywhere that says that Australia is going to be open access. So the question i want to find out is, is the government planning to go open access? In asking this, im assuming that the government is building the network such that open access can be achieved at any point of decision to accept it.

At 07 September, 2009 21:59 Anonymous said...

I've been doing my little search on whether the government has decided to go Open Access with this project and I have not got any good findings. So Im just curious to find out. Has it been decided to allow the FTTH lines to go open access?(not open access in terms of building structure, but splitting retail and operator/owner.)

At 11 September, 2009 12:48 Stephen Davies said...

The NBNco will deliver an Open Access, Wholesale only network


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