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Digital platforms and gatekeepers

Many services developed in recent years are based on Internet technologies. Of these web based services, many offer the same or similar functionalities as services previously provided by telecommunications operators and are called Over-The-Top (OTT) services. OTT services do not use the network layer, instead operating on the application layer. An excellent example of OTT communications services are instant messaging services. Similar to the traditional SMS or phone call, instant messengers allow users to contact others who have installed the instant messenging service; yet unlike SMS or phone calls, these services only require an Internet connection and do not necessarily require a SIM card to transmit communications. OTT services are often organised as platforms or form a part of large digital ecosystems. Essential services such as browsers, search engines, app stores, operating systems and communications platforms often obtain a gatekeeper position, e.g. in relation to users or third-party providers, and provided they command the necessary market power, they are able to restrict access to the open Internet and its innovation ecosystem. The proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA) of the European Commission also refers to these services as core platform services

TKK, RTR.Telecom.Post and other national regulatory authorities are tasked with ensuring sustainable competition between electronic communications services. In order to fulfil this task, a continuos monitoring of markets for electronic communications services is essential to determine whether and which regulatory intervention is necessary. The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), adopted in 2018, aims to promote the interoperability of these services and the development and use of very high capacity networks as well as the provision of innovative and affordable services through variety of services and competition. OTTs and platforms have considerable influence on markets for electronic communications services. For example, in the case of number-independent communications services (such as most instant messengers), the regulatory authority may stipulate interoperability under certain conditions in consultation with the European Commission and other authorities (as is the case with voice telephony services). TKK and RTR.Telekom.Post are also entrusted with the implementation of the net neutrality rules in Austria and safeguard the function of the Internet as a driver of innovation by overseeing the commercial and technical conditions (design) of the access networks. Finally, our activities in BEREC and other international bodies form an important part of our work on platforms and gatekeepers. 

Overview

Monitoring of digital platforms and gatekeepers
Studies and projects by RTR
Publications and studies by other institutions
Consultations and events

Monitoring of digital platforms and gatekeepers

Large digital conglomerates are actively shaping the digital space and their digital platforms and ecosystems have a significant and still increasing economic importance, also triggering a multitude of digital innovations. In the first half of 2020, RTR.Telekom.Post introduced a project to monitor communications services and digital gatekeepers. The monitoring is focused on platforms and ecosystems, in particular their market power and their behaviour on the market, which may consist of measures to support tipping and suppress competitive pressure from third parties in and for the market. In addition to RTR.Telekom.Post, this methodological document for monitoring digital platforms aims to inform other institutions about essential matters relating to and competitive aspects of platforms. As such, it is also part of the intensified cooperation with the Austrian Competition Authority (BWB) on digital issues agreed upon in the autumn of 2019.

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Studies and projects by RTR

In a study published in summer 2019 by RTR.Telekom.Post, we analysed the importance of operating systems and app stores for the open Internet. On the one hand, this study is based on an empirical survey of competition issues for and approaches of consumers, such as the factors that are relevant for switching services or how important interoperability is to them. On the other hand, interviews were conducted with app developers about possible restrictions on app stores.

With the methodological document published in spring 2020, we present an approach for measuring and assessing the market power of digital platforms and ecosystems. This approach aims to provide a structured methodology for describing relevant competitive dimensions and a basis for future competition analyses, in turn facilitating a preliminary assessment with regard to essential aspects and possible adverse economic effects. The document will be updated on a regular basis in order to take developments in economic theory or court decisions into consideration.

Our approach does not represent a final assessment according to competition law. RTR.Telekom.Post as well as other relevant decision-making bodies and institutions (e.g. in the fields of data protection, administration, etc.) should be able to use this information as a preliminary system for their tasks and considerations.

We use this methodological approach to analyse interpersonal communications services (in particular instant messengers) in Austria in a study published in December 2020. Our study draws on empirical data on the usage of these services in Austria and describes their embedding into larger digital ecosystems. On this basis, we develop an initial competition assessment of instant messaging services. 

Documents

Monitoring of interpersonal communication services with a focus on Instant Messaging

In the study Monitoring of interpersonal communication services with a focus on Instant Messaging, RTR.Telecom.Post examines the usage of these services in Austria based on empirical data and offers an initial competition assessment. This study was written in cooperation with the Federal Competition Authority and is available in German. 

Monitoring of interpersonal communication services with a focus on Instant Messaging
Monitoring of digital communications platforms and gatekeepers of the open Internet

The methodological document Monitoring of digital communications platforms and gatekeepers of the open Internet - written in cooperation with the Federal Competition Authority - provides a basis for enquiries and evaluations of competition issues related to communications platforms. The Executive Summary is available in English. 

Monitoring of digital communications platforms and gatekeepers of the open Internet
The Open Internet: OS, Apps and App Stores

In the course of the study The Open Internet: OS, Apps and App Stores, RTR.Telekom.Post took an in-depth look at competition issues in connection with these digital ecosystems based on a representative survey of the use of mobile digital services and interviews with app developers. The Executive Summary is available in English.

The Open Internet: OS, Apps and App Stores


Questions and answers

In order to provide better insight into our methodological work, we have explained some of the terms that are most relevant for our work in this overview. 

Questions and answers


We welcome your feedback on the approaches we have developed and our planned projects at: rtr@rtr.at

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Publications and studies

 Regulatory authorities in Europe and beyond have published in-depth studies about digital platforms and gatekeepers, some of which have since become foundational for regulatory efforts, in particular in the context of competition regulation. On a dedicated page, we provide an up-to-date overview of those studies we consider most relevant to our own work. 

Publications and studies

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Consultations and events

In an otherwise already intensive year, we have seen regulatory efforts connected to digital platforms and gatekeepers in the context of competition proliferate - in part due to the new approach introduced by the European Commission in February 2020, Shaping Europe's Digital Future. Many of these efforts have fruited in documents or legislative proposals presented for consultation or debated at conferences, which we curate on a dedicated page.

Consultations and events

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