Conflict brewing over access to Turk Telekom’s fibre

23 Mar 2016

Rival telecoms operators in Turkey are demanding cheaper access to partly state-owned Turk Telekom’s fibre-optic network, arguing that otherwise they cannot compete effectively in a converged fixed/mobile market, but the government’s position on the issue is not yet entirely clear, reports Reuters. Turk Telekom has spent around USD7 billion over the last decade on building Turkey’s most extensive fibre network and is now aiming to attract users to bundled fixed and mobile services to boost its third-placed standing in the cellular market, as it prepares for the launch of 4G LTE services next month. Turk Telekom has laid 213,000km of fibre, approximately six times more than Turkcell, whilst Vodafone Turkey’s fibre span is smaller still. Turk Telekom effectively sets the rates at which it charges its rivals to use the network, and both Turkcell and Vodafone are demanding tighter regulation of wholesale fibre access prices, whilst they are also pushing for the creation of a joint company to manage the network.

‘We have to bring fibre to every household and that requires a mobilisation for digital transformation,’ Turkcell CEO Kaan Terzioglu told Reuters. He estimated that by working together on building fibre networks, rather than investing separately, operators could save USD12.5 billion. Echoing this statement, Vodafone Turkey’s CEO Gokhan Ogut told Reuters: ‘Turkey needs 250,000km more fibre-optic lines in the next five years. To expect that from just one operator is not fair or possible.’ Turk Telekom CEO Rami Aslan appeared to dismiss rivals’ notions of fibre network sharing, however, adding that he plans to invest another TRY10 billion (USD3.5 billion) in the next three years. ‘Turk Telekom has invested in every single area in Turkey regardless of the region, regardless of the geographical conditions,’ Aslan told a news conference, adding: ‘Another operator’s [i.e. Turkcell’s] fibre network is around 35,000km over the course of their eight-year journey in the business, another [presumably referring to Vodafone] claims there is not enough fibre and I believe they haven’t invested at all.’ However, Aslan said he would not rule out joint investments with the other two operators in rural areas.

It is not yet clear what new formal measures on wholesale and shared fibre access the government will adopt, if any. Reuters quotes Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim telling telcos in February this year to stop ‘showing off’ about their speeds and network sizes and start working together instead. ‘We have to start fibre mobilisation,’ the minister declared.

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