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What's all this 'equivalence' about then?

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Some of the leading operators in the UK's telecoms sector gave evidence to a group of MPs yesterday about the ongoing telecoms review being conducted by regulator Ofcom.

AOL UK, Wanadoo UK, and Tiscali UK joined other operators including EasyNet and Cable & Wireless to outline their views about the progress being made so far to increase competition in the UK's telecoms sector.

Ofcom boss Stephen Carter and chairman David Currie were also due to be quizzed by MPs.

The Trade and Industry Select Committee (TISC) is scrutinising Ofcom's strategic review of the telecoms industry to assess the regulator's approach to promoting the right framework for a competitive broadband market.

It is also examining the progress of the review so far and wants to make sure that the year-long investigation into the UK's telecoms sector is heading in the right direction.

The issue of equal access to BT's services - "equivalence" - proved to be a focus of interest for many invited to appear to give evidence yesterday.

Speaking after the event Huw Saunders, a spokesman for telecoms trade group UKCTA said: "In our response to the Strategic Review, we have set out the key objectives that we believe should be the top priority, and will allow us to compete on even terms with BT's retail businesses as well as each other.

"Fundamentally, what we seek is market equivalence and a level playing field. There are certain issues - such as local loop unbundling and wholesale line rental - that it is generally recognised must be dealt with now, rather than delaying until Ofcom's Strategic Review has been completed."

Last month Ofcom said a full-scale Enterprise Act investigation that could lead to the eventual break-up of BT would kick-off in June should efforts to introduce greater competition and transparency at the giant telco fail. The June deadline was set by regulator Ofcom which is studying proposals by BT to open up the former monopoly to greater competition. ®

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