A Year Ago: BT hints at unmetered but at a price

First published: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 16:40:02 GMT

Cheaper Net tariffs more likely than totally free

After the news that free Internet access will hit the UK next week , BT hinted Wednesday that it could offer unmetered access if consumers pay for it with high flat-rate fees.

Speculation that BT is about to cut Net charges by introducing cheaper Internet rates has mounted in recent days, but most experts agree the telco is more likely to offer cheaper Internet tariffs than going completely free.

However, BT has not ruled unmetered access out and claims changes to the number translation scheme (NTS) -- set up by Oftel to open the market to competitors -- may be the answer. The scheme -- which gave birth to the free access model -- is "outdated" for the Internet age according to a BT spokesman and is currently under review.

Under NTS, according to BT, operators like Energis bag 90 percent of the call revenue while BT keeps 10 percent. The spokesman explained: "If less of the fee is passed on to operators like Energis, then BT would consider unmetered access." BT is calling for a share of the flat-rate fee that would replace pay per minute charges.

However, there is a catch: "If we were to introduce unmetered calls the set fee would have to be pretty high," the spokesman said. Details of how much the fee should be and how much should be allocated to BT is "currently under discussion" according to the spokesman.

Jo Upward, head of regulatory affairs at Energis said BT had got its figures wrong. "In the evening Energis keeps 60 percent of the revenue but in the evenings the split is 50/50." The most important issue for unmetered access is it must be fair to the consumer according to Upward. "It is important that BT recovers its costs and no more. Under existing arrangements BT has a gross over-recovery of costs. As unmetered access develops, it is important to make sure BT does not grab the whole market. With ADSL, BT has shown it will try to keep the market as a monopoly for itself which does not offer consumers the best deal."

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