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Unbundling moves closer as Oftel announces operators

14 operators get the all clear to offer services after the local loop is unbundled

Telco watchdog Oftel announces Wednesday the fourteen operators who will offer services when BT's (quote: BT) local loop is unbundled.

The local loop -- the last mile of copper wire connecting consumers' homes to BT's local exchange -- is due to be opened up to new operators in July 2001. The on-going saga of unbundling is widely seen by industry and government as key to developing a competitive Internet market and driving down prices.

Heads of government across Europe -- including Tony Blair -- have asked for incumbents to unbundle their loops by December of this year. BT is, however, sticking to a July 2001 deadline.

Fourteen companies including Colt, CWC, Easynet and Energis have been selected to participate in unbundling trials which will begin in January 2001 in London (Battersea), Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast. The companies will formally tender requests to BT to install equipment in the telco's exchanges shortly.

In a statement David Edmonds, director general of Oftel believes this indicates "significant progress" towards unbundling. "It reflects the strong commitment by the industry and Oftel to introduce unbundling as soon as possible."

The other operators are: Eircom, Fibernet, First Telecom, Global Crossing, Kingston Communication, MCI WorldCom, ntl, Telewest, Telinco and Thus.

In a separate announcement, Kingston announces it will take advantage of unbundling to roll out a digital interactive television service in Leeds. The service, which includes multiple channels, video-on-demand, access to the Internet and email, is already up and running in Hull.

Kingston plans a nationwide rollout, following the Leeds trial.

Tony Westbrook advises BT to 'Free the local loop' at AnchorDesk UK. Go and read the news comment there.

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