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Ofcom: High-speed hookups still a UK monopoly - except in London

Well, two UK monopolies when you include Hull

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

In a cascade of acronyms Ofcom has proposed price caps on high-speed leased-line connections: but only outside London where competition is having a hard time getting a foothold.

Ofcom's consultation argues that within the capital BT's dominance in leased connectivity is being successfully challenged, and by "the capital" Ofcom includes West and East London, but elsewhere the market for connections in the 1Gb/sec region is dominated by the former monopoly to such an extent that additional regulation may be necessary.

The proposals (pdf, so dull it's cut into four sections for easy download-and-forget) deal with the high-speed connections used by enterprises linking up offices and cellular operators backhauling base stations. The new proposals include the addition of a new category of connection, the MISBO (Multiple Interface Symmetric Broadband Origination) which is added to the TISBO (Traditional Interface) and AISBO (Alternative Interface) connections referenced in the 2007/8 study being updated.

MISBOs run over 1Gb/sec, and weren't popular enough in 2007 to be worthy of analysis, but times change and there's a lot more data being thrown around these days, all of which has to be transported.

Other than the expediential increase in quantities of data the industry hasn't apparently changed a lot in the last half decade, outside London at least. In London competitors have invested in digging up roads and laying cables, but outside the capital BT still has Significant Market Presence (SMP), while Hull gets the usual exceptions thanks to the overwhelming presence of KCOM (formerly Kingston Communications), which means fixes to pricing everywhere outside WECLA (Western, Eastern and Central London).

Exactly what those fixes will be remains to be seen, Ofcom says it will be publishing the details in the next few weeks, but the consultation proposals won't be keeping BT (or KCOM) executives awake at night as it looks like a little more of the same extended to cover higher-speed connections.

The consultation is open until August 24 to anyone prepared to wade through its 624 pages, and that's without the 19 annexes, but while ADSL unbundling gets all the attention Ofcom values the backhaul market at around £2bn annually - enough to make the proposals worth reading. ®

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