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Ofcom warned not to relax BT regulation just yet

Says UK trade group

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Ofcom has been warned not to relax the rules that governs BT just yet despite its recent regulatory settlement with the UK's dominant telco.

UKCTA - the telecoms trade group that includes operators including Cable & Wireless, Colt, NTL and Thus - says that competition in the sector will be put at risk if regulatory constraints are removed from BT too early.

In September, BT signed up to a regulatory framework aimed at increasing competition within the UK's telecoms sector. As part of that deal the former monopoly is creating a division - Openreach - to provide all operators, including its own BT Retail business, access to its service.

In return for this transparent and equal access to BT services and other legally binding undertakings, the regulator is looking to reduce the regulatory burden on BT where applicable.

The snag is, UKCTA is concerned that Ofcom is moving too fast, and is preparing to sweep away BT's regulation even before rival operators have had a chance to go head-to-head with the dominant player.

Christine Roberts, Director for External Affairs at the UK Competitive Telecommunications Association told us: "In its consultation on the replicability of BT's regulated retail business services, Ofcom has itself outlined many areas that require attention in three of the most important regulated wholesale products identified in the TSR [Telecoms Strategic Review] "bottleneck" areas of BT's network.

"Yet rather than focusing on remedying these problems Ofcom has issued another consultation about relaxing BT's Retail Regulation for large business customers.

"In the same breath, Ofcom admits that BT still has approximately 70 to 85 per cent of market share in this area, and that it is possible that BT may not in fact be strictly adhering to existing regulation in this market," she said.

UKCTA is concerned that Ofcom is being premature and wants the regulator to delay any moves to relax the regulation that limits BT.

Ofcom was asked to comment but no one from the regulator was available at the time of writing. ®

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