BT Ireland quits LLU talks

'Frustrated' by Eircom's lack of progress

BT has walked out of industry talks that are supposed to lead to greater competition for the provision of local loop unbundling (LLU) broadband operators in Ireland. The talks between the industry and Irish incumbent Eircom have been going on for two years and include, among other things, the creation of an automated system to help switch customers quickly and easily between different providers.

But on Tuesday, BT spat the dummy, threw its toys out of the pram, and turned its back on the talks. Frustrated by the lack of progress, BT said that Eircom's position on LLU would "jeopardise industry investment and impact on Ireland's competitiveness".

BT Ireland chief exec Danny McLaughlin said in a statement: "It is with great reluctance that we withdraw from this industry forum. However, Eircom continues to frustrate the progress of LLU and we do not see positive indications that a future change of ownership at the monopoly provider will bring a more progressive approach.

"We believe that Eircom's stance will jeopardise industry investment and impact on Ireland's competitiveness. It is evident that [regulator] ComReg does not have sufficient powers to improve this situation. BT will therefore explore all options available to us in order to ensure that the right market conditions exist to drive true competition."

Of course, there are plenty of people who say BT is just as guilty of frustrating progress in the UK.

Last year Ofcom described delays to the introduction of LLU as "very substantial". 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.

Yet, Ofcom wrote that 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 the problems, the LLU products continue to suffer from inferior functionality to those that BT supplies to itself."

In its latest monthly update, the telecommunications adjudicator, which oversees the development of LLU in the UK, is still frustrated by BT's lack of progress.

The OTA (Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator) described BT's delivery of backhaul - the lines that link unbundled exchanges to rival operators' networks - as "still unacceptable" and that "this has been an outstanding issue for some time". ®

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