BT holding back DSL say rivals

BT accused of blocking HDSLA major row between BT and rival telecoms operators has broken out over the deployment of DSL technologies ZDNet News learnt Tuesday.

Broadband services -- offering high speed Internet access -- will be delivered via DSL technologies to both consumers and businesses. Following unbundling of the local loop -- in which BT opens its network to other operators -- the number of such services is set to snowball.

While the DSL technology of choice for consumers is ADSL, there is an ongoing argument about the best way to deliver such services to businesses. According to one source close to the Spectrum Management Forum -- set up by Oftel to discuss issues surrounding unbundling and DSL -- BT is deliberately blocking one type of DSL.

"BT is playing a nasty game," the source claims. "It is basing its plan on ADSL and HDSL and is currently doing its damnedest to stop SDSL being deployed." HDSL (High bit rate Digital Subscriber Line) and SDSL (Synchronous Digital Subscriber Line) are competing versions of DSL. Both are more suitable for the business market because they offer equally high upload and download speeds.

A storm is brewing within the Spectrum Management Forum according to the source. "All of the other carriers argue BT is being unrealistic but BT seems unprepared to compromise," the source says.

This view is borne out by Karen Hardy, regulatory affairs manager at Energis and member of the Oftel forum. "There is a dispute in the technical working group on what appears to be an attempt to restrict technology to ADSL," she says. "Other operators, ourselves included, don't want to restrict it. Restricting it would mean everyone else using the same technology as BT and that isn't innovative," she says.

Another member of the forum, Colin Annette -- senior manager for network trading at MCI WorldCom -- is keeping an open mind about how the dispute will be resolved. "It is too premature to say BT is trying to constrain the deployment of certain types of DSL but in the background it would like to do that," he says.

BT was unable to comment at press time.

BT's latest set of 'restructuring' announcements seems they have cottoned on to voice over IP, and are now racing ahead to become dominant in that market. Go with Guy Kewney to read the news comment at AnchorDesk UK.

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