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Oftel names the local loop breakers

Trials involve 14 telcos

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Fourteen operators have been selected to start moving their kit into BT's local telephone exchanges as a precursor to unbundling the local loop (ULL), Oftel announced today. The ULL trials -- which will begin in January 2001 -- will provide a taster for what is to come when BT is finally forced to open the doors to all its exchanges in July 2001 and allow other telcos to compete with the monster telco. Battersea in London, Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast are the four areas that will trial the new open door strategy. The 14 operators involved are: Colt, CWC, Easynet, Eircom, Energis, Fibernet, First Telecom, Global Crossing, Kingston Communication, MCI Worldcom, NTL, Telewest, Telinco and Thus. According to the winged watchdog, operators will submit requests shortly to install equipment in the relevant exchanges. In September, they will be able to place initial orders to rent space to co-locate equipment in BT's exchanges. Once the orders have been placed, BT will start to build the necessary facilities within the exchanges to house operators' kit. And when this work is complete, operators will be able to install their equipment in the exchanges and, from July 2001 at the latest, deliver services to customers. Oftel says it will monitor progress against these targets, and if BT and the industry make sufficient progress, it may be possible to agree an improved timetable. In prepared statement David Edmonds, Oftel's DG, said: "The significant progress made in a wide range of areas is a reflection of the strong commitment by the industry and Oftel to introduce local loop unbundling as soon as possible." Simon Preston, World Online UK CEO, welcomed his company's involvement in the trial. "We need to determine what is the right technology to deploy and I would rather learn about that from taking part in the trial," he said. He also signalled World Online's intention to become a national provider of broadband services once other operators had full access to the local loop next year. Last month Oftel published a consultation document outlining the legal framework for ULL. On adoption, this will deliver the legal force to open up Britain's phone network to competition. ® Related Story Oftel hails BT moves to unlock local loop

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