BT angered by Oftel's unbundling plans

To the relief of UK telecoms operators and the grief of BT, industry watchdog Oftel today set in stone proposals to crush BT's monopoly of the local phone network and motivate rivals to prepare high speed services for delivery 2001.
Written by Chiyo Robertson, Contributor

In what Oftel says is 'the most important decision in recent years' the telecoms body today opened the latest chapter in its bandwidth access proposals. The plans seek to tackle bandwidth problems and to accelerate the delivery of high speed data services, including pushing Asymmetric Digital Sunscriber Line (ADSL).

Oftel has been mulling over the question of whether we really want or need high speed access and services. And the answer is Yes -- although it seems obvious to the majority of UK domestic Net users and Cyber-savvy small businesses. The boom in Net usage certainly helped persuade the watchdog.

In today's statement 'Access to Bandwidth: Proposals for Action' , Oftel proposes a two-pronged plan:

  • Operators upgrade BT's local copper phone lines so they can offer their own services over the network (Option 2).
  • BT upgrades its network and sells/leases lines to rival operators (Option 4).
  • It means BT must now invest significantly in its own network and related computer systems. Plus it has to let rivals in to upgrade the pipes for their own flavour services.

    BT is convinced that a one-size fits all model is the best way forward and fears that there will be major operational, technical and security issues following today's decision -- a view rejected by Oftel's director of technology Peter Walker. "The combined options means operators can decide for themselves where and how they roll out services. It provides maximum competition at the transport level," said Walker.

    Rival operators should be able to tap into BT's network by 1 July 2001 -- a timescale BT has agreed to. Walker added that a pricing model for such services had yet to be thrashed out.

    The move comes just one day after BT announced it is gearing up for next generation high speed Net access in the UK after buying ADSL kit from Alcatel and Fujitsu. BT said some 6 million households and business will be wired by ADSL links. But details about exactly what services would be available remain sketchy.

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