German Telecommunications Integration (Keynote lecture, 11.12.2007 Seoul)

Petra Schaper-Rinkel: German Telecommunications Integration. Problems Observed during the Process of German Telecommunications Integration, and of Governmental Guideline Measures.

Keynote lecture given at the conference  „ICT in South and North Korea“ des Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) am 11.12.2007 in Seoul.

Executive Summary

The goal of the present study is to describe and analyze the process of integration of the German telecommunications systems during and after German reunification in 1990, as background information to enable anticipation and preparation for problems that may occur during the integration process of South and North Korea.

The problems of the structural integration of East Germany’s telecommunications system at the political level were handled in the context of the full integration of that system into the West German system. This structural integration process simplified the situation, compared with that in other areas of the economy, since it was based on clear agreements and unambiguous rules. As a result of this decision, problems were downscaled from the strategic-political level to the level of adaptation within the organizations involved. Cultural factors were seen as very important and decisive for the political process and the “practical work.”

The modernization of infrastructure was mainly organized by today’s leading German telecommunications company, Deutsche Telekom AG, the former public telecommunications operator in West Germany, which assumed responsibility for the extension and digitization of the public network in East Germany. In the traditional framework of Western European PTOs, it provided universal service for all, at a uniform price. This policy was accompanied by various government measures for accelerated liberalization of all other sectors of the telecommunications industry (mobile communications, equipment, advanced services).

East Germany’s telecommunications manufacturing and equipment in-dustry was privatized, and eventually disappeared. First, it seemed to be one of the successful examples of the transformation process; today, it no longer exists. No specific measure for addressing the problems of this segment of East Germany’s telecommunications policy was ascertainable.

The reasons why the transformation of telecommunications manufacturing and equipment industry failed is not clear. There are other examples, such as the electronic industry, where the transformation was more successful.

The outdated and insufficient analogue infrastructure in East Germany was replaced by a digital state-of-the-art network within a space of seven years. This was financed by DBP Telekom without regard for future revenues, for the different cultures in East and West made it unclear whether demand in East Germany would be as high as in West Germany. This grid expansion in the tradition of the long-standing institutional framework of state-owned PTOs ensured full-scale telecommunications coverage for East-Germany, including its remote and under-developed areas.

In addition to this traditional approach, the urgent need for telecommunications services in East Germany accelerated political decisions to liberalize all other segments of the telecommunications industry. In the end, what emerged was a mixture of traditional hierarchical regulation along with a number of innovative approaches in local areas and specific fields of communications.

Little is known about these local and specific approaches to improve telecommunications services. Particularly interesting findings include the fact that the cultural factor was seen as very important and decisive for the political process, and for “practical work,” that it was easier to solve problems when issues were seen as “technical,” as opposed to “political,” and that there was a wide scope for innovative solutions on the ground. Looking beyond the German case, we will present hypotheses on approaches for successful telecommunications integration. Technological integration can be a push factor for political integration. The main factors for success are future orientation, stakeholder orientation, methods for monitoring and evaluation, and a broadening of the scope for comparison.