Leased lines to drive information society

They have been the poor cousin to ADSL, but leased lines are big business and could be about to revolutionise the way we get online

ADSL may have grabbed the headlines of late, but according to one networking firm it is high-speed services to businesses that will really drive the broadband revolution.

These services rely on leased lines, a subject which has become as much as an issue to those involved as the more media-friendly local loop unbundling and ADSL rollout debacles.

Leased lines provide high-speed, always-on connections to large businesses, and providers have been complaining to Oftel that BT is simply not offering a cost-effective wholesale product to them. "The price we pay for leased lines means there isn't a cost-orientated product out there," explained Iain Osborne, head of telco procurement at Ebone, the broadband division of networking firm GTS.

In something of a victory for rival operators, Oftel ruled at the end of last month that BT must provide a new wholesale product for the leased lines market. Now the two camps have five weeks to find a solution. According to Osborne there is a whole set of issues on the table, from technical and implementational to pricing. While negotiations are on-going he is reluctant to go into details, but if BT refuses to budge then matter could be taken to the EC.

With the dotcom crash, Osborne is convinced that the future lies in business to business commerce rather than with business to consumer. If that is true leased lines will be a crucial part of the equation. "Leased lines has always been a Cinderella issue with all the attention going to DSL and unbundling," said Osborne. "All the pre-crash attention was focused on business to consumer e-commerce but people are waking up to the fact that the huge impact of the information revolution will be driven by businesses."

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