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Competition law in the digital era

IIC UK Chapter Event

What do changing business models in the telecoms industry mean for competition law and regulation in the digital era?

20 September 2017
6 New Street Square, 15th Floor, London, EC4A 3BF
Event Synopsis

The ICT industry is undergoing rapid change driven by rapidly evolving technology, business models and patterns of customer demand. This change is going to continue - and even accelerate – for the foreseeable future. The pace and scale of change is creating major challenges for both sector regulators and competition authorities.

Convergence has made competition assessments and enforcement increasingly challenging, and as new business models emerge around the world – changing the way the industry is structured – the way in which competition functions needs to be scrutinised. New digital tools are changing the way that services are sold to customers and the way in which customers interact with the market. Technologies under development such as software defined networks, big data analytics and AI will continue this evolution.

At the same time as the industry is changing, regulators are also facing an evolving political landscape. In many cases, they are being asked to achieve outcomes in the sector which may lie outside their traditional areas of responsibilities. Citizens’ expectations about what the regulator should be held accountable for creates a moving target for authorities at the same time as their actions are held up to more detailed public scrutiny. Competition in the ICT sector is frequently under debate. Questions of dominance, disruption and fair play in the ‘internet value chain’ are never far from the headlines.

In this context, the IIC Chapter meeting was an opportunity to take a longer term look at this fast-moving landscape to reflect on questions such as:

  • Do we understand the trends that are driving industry evolution in the short and medium-term?
  • How do changing population and political expectations affect the ways in which
  • Can we predict what the implications for ICT competition will be in the future?
  • What are the implications of current legislative initiatives in Brussels?

There were four presentations and the UK Chapter meeting covering different aspects of this broad topic but all of them focusing on looking forward and discussing the implications of these major industry trends for sector regulatory and competition policy.

Mark Williams from BRG summarised some of the large scale trends affecting the industry around the world and focused on some specific issues arising from changing public expectations, convergence and co-investment of network rollout. See the presentation here.

Emily Clark from BT discussed current regulatory approaches to the UK market and argued for fresh thinking about the way in which the sector is regulated.

Tim Cowen from Preiskel & Co. focused on innovation and the implications for competition policy. Read the speech for the Oxford Centre for Competition Law and Policy. Download the presentation here.

Finally Agustin Diaz Pines from the European Commission reviewed the tools available to competition authorities at national and European level and how they can be applied to the ICT sector in times of rapid change.

The presentations were followed by a broad ranging discussion that covered subjects from regulation of telecoms networks through to how competition policy should adapt to new technologies and new business models. There was a lot of discussion of the drivers of innovation in the tech and related sectors and the extent to which the business models of the biggest global tech companies is promoting or constraining competition and how regulatory authorities should respond. There was consensus that measuring innovation would be a challenge for authorities and the economics profession.

  • Does the economics profession have the analytical tools to understand how regulation affects innovation and how this drives welfare calculations?
  • Does the legal framework give regulators the tools to make the right decisions with regards merger control and in abuse cases ?

Regulation is a driver of change in the industry but also is driven by it so these questions are fundamental to the future of the sector. They will undoubtedly continue to be debated for some time to come.


Agustín Díaz-Pinés

Agustín Díaz-Pinés

Telecommunications Expert, DG Competition, European Commission

Emily Clark

Emily Clark

Chief Economist, BT

Jean-Jacques Sahel

Jean-Jacques Sahel

Managing Director, Europe, ICANN; Chairman, UK Chapter, International Institute of Communications


Mark Williams

Mark Williams

Managing Director, Berkeley Research Group, UK

Tim Cowen

Tim Cowen

Partner, Preiskel & Co LLP; Director, International Institute of Communications

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