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BT could be sailing into a storm over plans to roll-out an 128k "mid-band" service.

The service - aimed at bridging the gap between dial-up and broadband services - was formally announced yesterday ahead of a trial in the Spring.

Specific details are still hard to come by, but on the issue of price BT Retail chief exec Pierre Danon said it "would be cheaper than broadband, but not much cheaper". However, he was unable to say whether the service would be available to other operators and ISPs on a wholesale basis, or, as he puts it: "It may or may not be available to other operators."

Such equivocation - even at this early stage - will serve only to fuel further allegations that BT is abusing its dominant market position. The giant telco is already facing an investigation by the competition regulator on a related issue.

Any move that would give BT an inch ahead of the competition would be seen by many as nothing short of a scandal. Indeed, it would merely stoke the fires of suspicion already harboured by some that BT has cut a back-room deal with the Government in return for an easy regulatory ride.

A spokeswoman for Oftel said that if the product proved to be anti-competitive then the telecoms regulator would investigate. ®

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