Oftel backs BT's DIY broadband

Regulator says it is in favour of letting users install their own broadband, and insists that BT isn't facing another investigation

Oftel has hailed BT's self-installation ADSL product as a positive move, scotching rumours that the telco might face an investigation into whether it was acting in an anti-competitive manner.

The watchdog told ZDNet News that it was pleased that BT was close to launching the device, which will get users install their own high-speed Internet service without requiring a visit from a BT engineer. BT is promising a cut in the wholesale price of ADSL of £5 per month, and a £100 reduction in the standard broadband installation fee of £150.

"We're fully in favour of this product, if it succeeds in bringing down the price of broadband," said an Oftel spokeswoman. "It should be good news for everyone in the industry," she added.

Home trials of the device will begin on 3 December, and BT is hoping to begin commercial sales in January 2002. It consists of a small device that will fit directly into a phone socket to split the ADSL connection from the telephone, and a broadband modem -- which will link to a PC via its USB port.

BT Wholesale will sell the product to Internet Service Providers for £25 per month -- compared to the current cost of £30 per month -- who will then offer it to consumers. BT hopes that the £5 per month saving will be passed on to the home users by the ISPs. There will also be a £50 installation fee to cover work that must be done at the local exchange.

BT suggested on Wednesday that there was a possibility that it could face an Oftel investigation into the product. Under the terms of its operating licence, BT must make a profit on every service it offers -- preventing it undercutting a smaller competitor.

"We certainly don't have any plans to investigate this product at the moment," the Oftel spokeswoman said.

Oftel is currently investigating BT's decision to offer half-price broadband installation of £75 until the end of this year. Privately, BT is increasingly unhappy about being blamed for the low take-up of broadband, only to be investigated for anti-competitive practices whenever it makes a price cut.

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