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BT ordered to offer wholesale leased lines to other operators

Oftel comes over all macho

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Winged watchdog Oftel is strutting its stuff again with an "order" against BT to offer wholesale leased lines to other operators.

Where does this fit in with the existing situation, local loop unbundling and FRIACO? Well, Oftel tell us, this is all about fixed always-on fast lines i.e. between a company's HQ and its other main building.

What's the difference? Well, BT currently only offers retail-cost lines. Oftel's diktat is that is offers them on a wholesale basis. BT has two months, Oftel declares, to agree Ts&Cs and then a month and a half to bring it out.

All a bit peculiar and frankly rather uninteresting. But Oftel was adamant it was ordering BT to comply. So BT has just been informed then - this comes as a big shock? Er, no. It's known about it for months. It's all about Competition & Choice™, see. How will this make any difference to the market? If operators buy a section of the line off BT and manage to undercut BT on the rest of the route they may be able to offer the service cheaper - and this is good.

BT seemed as underwhelmed as us. "We don't think this is really necessary, the market is already competitive. But we were aware this was coming up and we have been working with other operators on getting it to work," a spokesman told us. "We will adhere to the deadlines and keep to the timetable Oftel has outlined."

But BT doesn't offer a wholesales product, does it? "No." So how can it be a competitive market. "But there are a range of other operators that can offer the service."

But enough of this, it's storm-in-a-teacup time. The main question is: why is Oftel putting on its hardman act again? We don't know of any select committee coming up. And head boy David Edmonds has already been passed over as leader of new super-regulator Ofcom. Peculiar.

We also note our own bias. Now that BT is looking more like an underdog, we are more inclined to listen to it. The British disease, huh? Oh, and Sir Pete is still holding strong in his ivory tower. ®

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