FRIACO hit by telco stalemate

Diluted offer on the table

Plans for a wholesale unmetered Net access package that would let providers compete directly with BT's SurfTime product have been watered down - for the time being at least.

The original FRIACO (Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination) deal is still on the table, and the subject of ongoing and detailed negotiations between BT and other telcos.

When it was announced at the end of May industry insiders said FRIACO would be available to British Net users within a matter of weeks, not months.

Since then, there has been a series of stumbling blocks over accepting the proposals, not least over pricing and technical issues.

Last week BT slapped a new deal on the table - dubbed FRIACO Hybrid, or FRIACO 2 - which it's hoped will be introduced as an interim product while the details of the original FRIACO offer are thrashed out.

The Register has learned that this revised product could be made available within a couple of weeks and that at least two operators are poised to sign up to the offer.

The main difference between FRIACO and its successor lies in the fact that the original product was supposed to provide a full wholesale unmetered access package for telcos that effectively capped their exposure to spiralling telco costs.

FRIACO Hybrid, on the other hand, is partly metered and partly unmetered, which means that operators are still faced with an element of uncapped risk.

No costs have been released as yet.

A spokesman for BT said: "Our offer [for FRIACO] has been on the table since June 1 and it met all of OFTEL's terms.

"This wasn't acceptable to some operators...but we have to get the economic model right. We have to protect the local network," he said.

Privately, some industry insiders believe FRIACO will not be introduced until the autumn at least. ®

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