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Watchdog bites into BT monopoly

It's time to unbundle that local loop

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BT is set to lose its telecomms monopoly in the UK, although consumers will have to wait at least two years before they can benefit from increased competition. That's the conclusion of a report published today by telecomms watchdog Oftel; it calls for BT to open up its local networks to allow other telcos to deliver broadband access -- aka unbundling the local loop. But even then, BT will still have a virtual stranglehold over the nation's telecomms services by virtue of its massive lead in the sector. After six months consultation Oftel has rejected BT's plea to hang onto the local network and lease out the lines to other telcos on a wholesale basis. Instead, Oftel has recognised that competition is simply not working and that for consumers to gain any real benefit local services must be wrenched from BT's grasp. The report reads: "Under Option 2 Oftel would mandate a form of 'unbundling'. BT would be required to make its local copper loop available as a leased circuit to other operators. Operators would be able to upgrade the loop to provide higher bandwidth capacity by installing equipment at BT's local exchange and at the customer's premises. "This is consistent with our policy that competition is the best route to giving consumers the best possible deal in terms of choice, quality and value for money." A spokesman for BT welcomed the news and pointed to yesterday's announcement that it had placed an order an order with Alcatel and Fujitsu for ADSL hardware as proof that BT has the country's best interests at heart. [How touching. - Ed] BT plans to give almost six million homes and businesses the option of tapping into this broadband technology by next spring. That's despite the fact that BT threatened to hold the country to ransom and delay the introduction of ADSL if it didn't get its own way. The spokesman also denied that the announcement was timed to coincide with the publication of Oftel's report. It's just a mere coincidence, he said. A final decision about the future of ADSL is expected to be made by late in October. ®

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