Oftel has named the first set of telecoms providers that will share BT's local networks, as the UK moves towards a more competitive telecoms market.
The regulator named the 14 operators, including cable companies, ISPs and new entrants chosen by the industry, that will from September begin installing their equipment in BT's local exchanges to deliver high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) services. Trials will begin in January 2001 and commercial services are scheduled to be available from July 2001.
Until now, BT has owned all the equipment within local exchanges, giving it a controlling grip on the majority of the UK's local phone networks, the exception being the cable operators. The UK government has been pressing BT to accelerate the 'unbundling' of the local loop, but July next year still looks like the earliest likely date.
An Oftel spokesman said: "We would like to see the date come forward if possible. We're currently working to the original timetable. If things continue the way they have, it may well be that it will be done earlier."
The trials will be conducted using exchanges in London (Battersea), Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast. Exactly who will install the equipment has yet to be decided. The operators were chosen by industry body, the Operators Policy Forum.
The chosen operators are: Colt, Cable & Wireless Communications, Easynet, Eircom, Energis, First Telecom, Global Crossing, Kingston Communication, MCI WorldCom, NTL, Telewest, Telinco and Thus.
The prices the operators will pay for installing equipment in BT's exchanges will be announced later this month.
Following the DSL trials, the participants will extend their services to include voice.
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