BT system failures hamper broadband competition

Software bugs have made it harder for BT's rivals to take contol of its telephone lines

BT has suffered a series of software glitches that have made it harder for other telecoms operators to take control of its telephone lines and offer innovative broadband services.

These problems occurred in new systems that should automate local-loop unbundling (LLU) — the process where a rival telecoms operator can take control of BT telephone lines and offer its own services to businesses and consumers.

Peter Black, the telecoms adjudicator, reported last week that these software problems meant that at some points during July BT was only successfully handing over four of every five telephone lines requested.

This is just the latest in a series of setbacks to hit LLU — which is meant to bring more competition to the telecoms sector — in the last few years. Black, who oversees the LLU process on Ofcom's behalf, told ZDNet UK on Monday that they were the kind of problems that are typical with new software.

"There were two major pieces of software introduced... both were late, and both had 'bugettes'," said Black.

Before these automated systems were introduced, BT engineers were handling the transfer of LLU lines manually. This also suffered hitches — back in February, Black reported that only 50 to 60 percent of newly unbundled lines were being delivered 'right first time'.

"Before these latest hiccups, BT had reached 95 percent delivery success," said Black on Monday "Of course, that's still not good enough."

Bulldog, one of the few operators to have made a serious attempt at unbundling BT's lines, has suffered a swath of problems in recent weeks. Many new Bulldog customers have complained of problems getting their connection, while existing customers have also cited problems.

Last month, Bulldog blamed BT for some of these issues.

Black rejected the suggestion that BT's software problems were directly responsible for Bulldog's woes, but suggested that there might be "some indirect connection" between the two.