Long-suffering Bulldog subscribers now know who they've been sold to.
The Internet service provider's (ISP) remaining retail and small business customers have been acquired — at a fraction over £100 each — by the rapidly expanding Pipex, which has also announced a wholesale deal to let it piggyback off Cable & Wireless local loop unbundling (LLU) connections.
Cable & Wireless is the former owner of Bulldog, having acquired it in 2004 for £18.6m.
Pipex chief executive Mark Read admitted to ZDNet UK that his company would have had to pay a lot more for Bulldog's customer base if taking on the troubled ISP was a more attractive task.
"Pipex has taken on many challenges in the past. If it wasn't as much of a challenge, then Cable & Wireless might not want to sell, and if they did it would cost a lot more," he said on Thursday.
Read said that existing customers would remain on "Bulldog, powered by Pipex", but new customers would go straight onto a Pipex connection if the company had unbundled their exchange.
He also denied that there would be even short-term disruption for Bulldog's customers in the switchover.
LLU allows companies other than BT to install their own equipment in a BT exchange, which lets them offer their own wholesale telecoms services.
"We had a good look at [Bulldog] before we bought them," said Read. "Billing has been a problem, but we think they've now got a grip on most issues and we will clear out the rest. The equipment in the exchanges is good stuff, from Marconi. Perhaps Bulldog over-promised in the past, but we think the billing issue is now cracked."
Pipex has also acquired IDT Telecom's Toucan ISP, which gives it 185,000 customers, for £24m. Bulldog's 110,000 customers cost it £12m, which brings its total voice and broadband customer base to 1.14 million subscribers.
Cable&Wireless was prompted to exit the broadband market after players such as Carphone Warehouse, Orange and BSkyB started offering so-called "free broadband" as part of fixed-mobile-broadband triple-play packages, although Bulldog has long suffered from customer dissatisfaction over issues such as billing.
As the Toucan purchase brings a fixed-line and mobile businesses, Pipex has now also become a "triple-player".