Feeds

Ofcom shames BT

'Suspects BT may have restricted competition'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

Ofcom has detailed BT's misdemeanours in detailed documents published yesterday. Strip away the jargon and what's revealed are "substantial delays" to the introduction of wholesale products that would allow rivals to compete and consumers to get a better service.

As BT, Ofcom and the industry look to reach some kind of settlement, perhaps it is reminding ourselves exactly why the regulator has threatened to break-up the UK's dominant telco.

"Ofcom suspects that competition is being restricted in markets for the supply of wholesale access and backhaul network services in the context of electronic communications in the United Kingdom and on directly related downstream retail markets," said Ofcom in the document entitled Notice under Section 155(1) of the Enterprise Act 2002.

"In the wholesale markets identified, BT has and will continue to have a substantial degree of market power. BT is also a vertically integrated provider with a presence in the directly related downstream markets.

"Ofcom believes that the combination of these features (upstream market power and vertical integration) provides BT with both the ability and the incentive to discriminate against its downstream competitors, who are also its wholesale customers.

"Moreover, Ofcom suspects that BT may have engaged in conduct which has had the effect of restricting competition."

Hang on a mo, "conduct which has had the effect of restricting competition"? Is Ofcom gonna dish the dirt on BT? You bet...

Ofcom says that delays to the introduction of some wholesale products have been "very substantial" not least in local loop unbundling (LLU), which enables rivals to install their kit in BT exchanges and compete head on with the telco.

For example, says Ofcom, in November 1999, Oftel [the former telecoms regulator] ruled that BT must offer LLU products that could be used by rivals to provide competitive services.

"In June 2005, five and half years later, the Telecommunications Adjudicator is still working with BT to resolve problems with many important features of the LLU products. As a result of such problems, the LLU products continue to suffer from inferior functionality to those that BT supplies to itself."

Tut tut. But there's more.

"Four years have passed since BT was directed to negotiate the terms of PPC (partial private circuits) provision on a commercial basis, yet there remain a number of areas in which BT's wholesale customers consider that PPCs are inferior to the network inputs used by BT's downstream divisions."

Oh dear.

And what's this? BT has been dragging its heels over wholesale line rental (WLR) - a product that enables rivals to compete directly with BT Retail? And still it's not right?

"Oftel's determination that BT must offer WLR as a remedy was taken in August 2002. BT's WLR product has been repeatedly redesigned to resolve problems identified by wholesale customers. Release 14.1 of WLR, which will address many (but not all) of the remaining issues, is expected to be launched in December 2005, nearly three and a half years after the original determination."

A spokesman for the giant telco told us: "BT doesn't agree with everything that Ofcom says, but we do agree that we need to address the perception in the industry by providing total transparency. That's why we're setting up a new business unit to do just that."

In March, BT boss Ben Verwaayen told the rest of the UK's telecoms sector to "get on with life" as he sought to explain how the UK's monster telco and Ofcom had managed to "get the level of discussion going to a level of much more intelligent debate". Elsewhere within the company BT is busy trying to convince the world and his dog that it really is committed to change.

But on the basis of Ofcom's observations about BT's behaviour, the regulator and the rest of the industry would be wise to carrying keeping a sharp eye on the UK telco. ®

Related stories

Ofcom releases details of BT settlement
BT agrees to give LLU chance to thrive
BT still needs to be policed, says industry
BT bows to Ofcom pressure
BT escapes threat of immediate break-up
Ofcom's Telecoms Review 'sewn up by the big boys'
BT tells industry to 'get on with life'

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.