Ofcom lets BT sell voice and TV bundles

Ofcom lets BT sell voice and TV bundles

Summary: The telecoms watchdog has lifted one of its last restrictions on BT, saying the landline market is healthy enough to allow rivals to compete

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TOPICS: Networking
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Ofcom has lifted a restriction meaning BT will now be allowed to start selling bundles of services such as landlines, broadband and digital TV.

In a decision announced on Tuesday, the telecoms watchdog said that as a result of increased competition for landline provision, it has opted to deregulate the retail telecoms market. This effectively puts an end to previous controls on bundled services and prices from BT.

The ruling, which removes one of the last pieces of regulation affecting the former incumbent, is based on the findings of a consultation launched by Ofcom in March. The review looked into the state of competition in the fixed-line telephony market, which covers analogue and digital (ISDN) lines.

"We have now completed our review. Our conclusions are that most of the UK retail markets, with the exception of Hull, are now effectively competitive and, specifically, BT no longer has significant market power... in the provision of retail fixed narrowband analogue access and retail calls markets in either the residential or business sectors," the regulator said in a statement.

Ofcom noted that around 12 million households and small businesses in the UK now use telecoms providers other than BT, including Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk. In Hull, however, provider KCOM still dominates the fixed-line market, Ofcom said, and the regulations will continue to apply to the operator.

The decision will benefit consumers by spurring competition around bundled services, Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards said. "This is an important step in deregulating telecoms where competition can be relied upon to serve the consumer interest," he said.

Ofcom said the average monthly cost of home landline calls fell from £25.04 in 2002 to £21.57 in 2008 — a drop it attributed to competition between providers.

BT said the move would allow the company to compete on a more-level playing field. "This will allow BT to offer more targeted discounts on products and services and more attractive bundles at better prices, something we have been unable to offer widely to date," said BT Retail chief executive Gavin Patterson in a statement.

Ofcom said that during its consultation, BT's competitors criticised the proposed deregulation efforts, citing issues such as the telecom's high market share in retail landlines and the barriers its rivals faced to entry and growth. However, the regulator said the evidence demonstrated that these issues had been overcome by changes in the market in the past few years.

In addition, a recent run of poor earnings results at BT has undermined competitors' suggestions that the company's market dominance is indicated by its profitability.

The deregulatory action is the latest in a series of such moves. In 2006, Ofcom removed retail price controls on BT, and in 2007 it relaxed access controls for BT for businesses with a telecoms budget of more than £1m a year. However, Ofcom noted that regulations are still in place regarding BT in two retail business markets.

Topic: Networking

Andrew Donoghue

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Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and ZDNet.co.uk.

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

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  • Hopefully..

    This will be a good thing especially for the end customer, from what I have seen over the last two years is a steadily increase in prices for the home packages from all vender's, it doesn't seem to matter which one you go to for your service they all seem to put more precedence into the bundle packages and thus apply better discounts.

    Where people only looking for Internet connections are heavily over charged or penalized even for as little as a 2mbit connection, the other annoying factor if you do decide to take a package deal is the hidden charges they hit you with a month later, that they previously failed to mention when you contacted them the month before.

    What would be nice to see is a lot more flexibility in the over all system where as you could have Internet from one company phone from another and TV from a third, or the ability for customer's to build or scale there own packages with whoever they may be with without the contradiction in specific preset contracts.
    CA-aba1d