The necessary access to the existing broadband infrastructure is possible in various forms and manifestations. There are basically two access types to be distinguished.
Physical access to network infrastructure: On different network levels
Here, a competitor is able to completely take over the access and the operation of the downstream infrastructure or access to the end user at defined network points. This means that the service provider is able to ensure the highest degree of flexibility in the design of possible end customer products. At the same time, the physical access to infrastructure requires appropriate measures on the part of the competitor for providing the relevant products in the respective infrastructure segment.
Virtual access to network infrastructure: At different quality of service gradations
Here, in contrast to physical access, there is no physical switch made to downstream network infrastructures and retail lines, but the required access is provided virtually by the owner of the infrastructure. That is, the competitor leases respective accesses without operating the necessary network components. The actual operation of the network and the downstream end user lines remain with the infrastructure owner. With regard to these access types, it is to distinguish to what extent such performance can be made available. Generally, it is to differentiate between the accesses based on layer-3 and layer-2, which differ in terms of the possibility of the design of standalone product offerings and features.
It should be noted, that the physical access type demonstrates the highest degree of independence when making own end customer products available and cannot be exchanged easily with the appropriate virtual access types. In this context, recent developments can be taken into account, that due to technological advancements of transmission variants, limit formerly fully provisioned access types (vectoring) or work towards the broadest possible scope of eligibility of wholesale products (dense wavelength division multiplexing - DWDM).
The entire spectrum of access types is thereby not feasible for every infrastructure or technology. In general, the following distinctions can be made in terms of access to the end customer:
- Copper wires: Physical and virtual access to subscriber line
- Coaxial cables: Virtual access
- Optical fibre: Physical (p2p) or virtual access (p2mp)
Read more on how to choose the right infrastructure type.