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BT to offer free local calls

Just like they have in America, Ma, well, almost

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Exclusive BT is to offer off peak unmetered local calls from December bringing the UK more in line with the US system of telecoms charging.

The monster telco has all but cleared the final regulatory hurdles with Oftel to offer the service for a fixed monthly fee.

The new tariff applies to both voice and data calls but it's understood that charges will kick-in if calls last more than an hour.

However, the service does not cover local-rate calls made to non-geographic numbers such as 0845/0870, used widely by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The new product, referred to internally as Project Trade, will be branded BT Together Local. Although the cost of the service has yet to be confirmed, insiders at BT believe it could cost consumers around £20 a month, which would include the cost of line rental. Business users are expected to have a similar product made available later next year.

BT Together - launched less than a year ago - costs £11.99 a month and includes line rental plus up to 200 minutes of free, off peak local calls - worth around 80p.

According to a document seen by The Register from BT's Regulatory Affairs Department: "Detailed analysis [of Project Trade] has been supplied to Oftel which shows that a Wholesale Product is not required. Oftel have now accepted this and a final details of the proposal is currently under discussion with them."

Oftel's decision not to offer a similar wholesale product to allow other telcos to compete could be challenged by rival telcos struggling to break BT's stranglehold of the UK's telecoms market.

For BT, such a move would guarantee a monthly revenue stream in an ever competitive marketplace.

A spokesman for BT refused to comment specifically on the new product or the leaked documents.

Instead, he said: "BT keeps its price package under constant review in what is a very fast-moving and competitive market.

"We are continually talking to our customers and look at ways to get them even better value for money.

"We look art all sorts of options and it is not our policy to rule anything in, or anything out," he said.

No one from Oftel was available for comment by press time. ®

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