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Superintendencia de Competencia
Competencia

Telecomunicaciones: la regulación a la zaga del mercado

Por David López*

El mercado de las telecomunicaciones cambia constantemente, sobre todo las móviles. Por un lado, los consumidores demandamos más y más datos porque ya no usamos nuestros teléfonos solo para comunicarnos sino para hacer compras, transacciones bancarias, entretenernos, etc. Por el otro, las empresas telefónicas, para responder a la demanda, se ven obligadas a realizar inversiones en la red, ya sea adquiriendo más espectro radioeléctrico del Estado (cuando es posible), realizando adaptaciones costosas a la infraestructura o buscando nuevos productos y formas de comercializar.

Sin embargo, en contraste, la regulación no siempre puede seguir el ritmo del mercado, lo cual puede amenazar la competencia y el bienestar de los consumidores. Y es que, en un mercado como este, donde sus características determinan la existencia de pocas empresas, la regulación es clave para promover que las condiciones de competencia sean las adecuadas a fin de que propicie una dinámica competitiva tal que resulten los mejores precios, buena calidad, innovación y diversidad de productos.

Estos cambios que experimentan y seguirán experimentando los mercados de telefonía móvil (en algunos casos imperceptibles para la demanda) podrían desencadenar riesgos para la competencia que afecten a los usuarios (estos sí perceptibles a la demanda), en el mediano y largo plazo. Por eso, es necesario que la regulación prevea estos posibles efectos nocivos.

A manera de ejemplo, uno de ellos está relacionado con la inversión en la infraestructura física para operar una red móvil. Los costos de operar una red son muy significativos, y van desde la asistencia técnica, la propiedad y manejo de los sitios, las torres y el equipo de red, lo cual presiona los costos al alza.

Una estrategia plausible que podrían utilizar las operadoras para mantener su posición en el mercado es reducir costos a través de la tercerización del manejo de su red. La lógica es simple. Si se comparten estos costos entre los operadores del mercado, es posible aprovechar ahorros. En otras palabras, si el servicio lo presta un tercer operador dueño de estos activos, el costo de una sola torre se puede repartir entre dos o más operadores, en lugar de tener cada uno su red.

Esto se puede replicar en todo el mercado, de manera que se obtengan ahorros significativos de costos operativos. Tal ahorro podría llegar al punto que las empresas telefónicas no posean infraestructura física y no sean quienes adquieren espectro radioeléctrico del Estado, sino adquirir los servicios de acceso a la red de un tercero.

¿Dónde está el riesgo a la competencia?

Para realmente obtener ahorros es necesario que el número de propietarios de la red sea menor al de empresas telefónicas, donde estas últimas constituirían la demanda de un mercado nuevo de servicios mayoristas de telefonía móvil. Por naturaleza, sería un mercado muy concentrado, lo cual activa las alarmas desde el punto de vista de competencia.

Surgen riesgos de monopolización del mercado. Esto se traduce en incentivos a incrementar los precios que cobren a las empresas telefónicas por los servicios de acceso a la red, debido a las presiones competitivas reducidas, sea por coordinación o paralelismos. Asimismo, disminuyen los incentivos a mantener la calidad de los servicios, al posponer o reducir las inversiones en la red.

Lo bueno es que estos riesgos pueden ser abordados desde la regulación, de manera ex ante, para establecer condiciones y reglas que eviten conductas contrarias a la competencia, que terminen afectando a los consumidores. Sin embargo, en la actualidad la existencia de un mercado mayorista separado del que provee a los usuarios ni siquiera está contemplada en la Ley de Telecomunicaciones, mucho menos obligaciones para estos operadores. Es necesario que estos se incorporen en la regulación para evitar daños a la competencia y al consumidor en el largo plazo. Si bien la regulación estará constantemente a la zaga del mercado, la diferencia está en cuánto tiempo le toma ponerse al día.


* El autor es Licenciado en Economía y Negocios. Actualmente trabaja en la Superintendencia de Competencia.

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