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LLU to take-off despite 'painful year'

Watchdog rubs crystal ball

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The UK could be about to witness a "dramatic" explosion in local loop unbundling (LLU) despite a somewhat "painful" progress over the last year, according to the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator (OTA).

So far there are some 70,000 unbundled lines in the UK with numbers growing by around 3,000 a week.

But the OTA reports that the latest forecasts from operators keen to provide broadband services show "accelerated interest in LLU investment and deployment".

"The forecast shows unbundled lines dramatically in excess of the OTA's original forecast of 1.5 million are predicted by end 2006," said the OTA.

News that LLU operators are gearing up for a big push comes as BT has agreed to demands from regulator Ofcom to give LLU a chance to take-off in the UK.

Despite the renewed optimism the OTA is still concerned at difficulties faced by the LLU operators.

This was highlighted yesterday by Ofcom which highlighted the time it has taken for LLU to become a workable alternative to BT's dominance.

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.

Commented Ofcom: "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."

Signing off its latest update on the progress of LLU the OTA added: "After a lively, challenging and sometimes painful year we now seem to be on the way to the Market Breakthrough for LLU that we have all been working towards, if somewhat later than we would all have liked." ®

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