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Ofcom waves through wholesale line rental

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Ofcom is to approve a product that should enable rivals to compete with dominant fixed line telco BT.

The regulator reckons Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) - which enables telcos to invoice customers for line rental and phone charges on the same bill, as opposed to having to pay for calls and line rental separately - should now be passed "fit for purpose" (FFP).

"Ofcom has assessed the proposed WLR product to ensure it is sufficiently robust to enable providers to meet the needs of their customers and to compete effectively," said the regulator in a statement.

And about time too. How long has it taken BT to ensure that its WLR product is FFP? Ages, that's how long.

BT has dragged its feet over the implementation of a FFP WLR product but now it's settled its regulatory battle with Ofcom, it looks like it's finally prepared to iron out all those niggling issues that riled Ofcom and the industry for so long.

Are we being too hard on BT? Not a bit. Here's what Ofcom had to say just a few short months ago.

"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."

Which is just in time for the launch of BT's new network access business - openretch.

With a total of 100,000 WLR lines being added each month, Ofcom reckons there will be more than one million residential WLR lines by the end of 2005 and as many as three million WLR lines by the end of 2006. ®

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