The Department of Trade and Industry gave 44 telecomms operators a late Christmas present of licences to run international services from the UK.
Although many of the new licensees already provide international services for their customers they have had to lease capacity from either BT or Mercury. Mercury itself was awarded its licence in 1986. Now the new licensees can use their own facilities, which should cut their costs.
A spokesperson for one of the licensees, Vodafone, declined to say whether it would pass these savings on to its customers. It said the change chiefly benefits the way it runs its business.
Independent international telecomms analyst Barry McAdam said: ?Until now these suppliers were forced to lease capacity from BT and Mercury, which would mark up the charges by two or three thousand per cent. The immediate assumption would be that international telecomms charges would be reduced but may not be the case.?
Several new international cables are being planned, which would expand the volumes of telecomms traffic, particularly of data services such as the Internet.
Ian Taylor, science and technology minister, said: ?Phone prices are down 40 per cent overall since 1984 and I expect these licensees to put further downward pressure on international rates. New services are coming online, including new operators investing in advanced services such as Internet and integrated voice, data and video. I look to substantial further investment in international cables, satellites and switching to ensure transmission capacity keeps up with the tremendous capabilities of these technologies.?
Among the 44 new licensees are Energis, Worldcom UK, Eurotunnel, MFS Communications, MCI Telecommunications and Racal Telecommunications.
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