BT has told PC Week that Oftel's proposals to open local-loop communications to competition would be "leaping into the unknown" and could bring "chaos".
In a consultation paper released last week by Oftel, the UK telecommunications watchdog agency recommended that BT "unbundle" the local copper loop and make it available as a leased circuit to other operators, so they could install their own equipment in BT's exchanges.
The agency also recommended that BT upgrade its copper loops to enable delivery of high-bandwidth services, namely ADSL. That technology would deliver at 6Mbits a second, which would increase network access time 100 times.
BT officially responded that it would cooperate with Oftel and the industry both during the consultation period and any subsequent trials. But a BT spokesman told PC Week: "We need some form of highway code. We need to know the type of equipment that will be used on the network. That's a fact no one has considered.
"And if our competitors are allowed access into our telephone exchanges, that brings up questions of security. We need to know who would get access, what they would pay and who would maintain the security of the building," the spokesman said.
"For the customers it would also be confusing: how would faults get reported and who would they contact for services? If ADSL takes off and we have all these competitors using our network, with access to our exchanges, it could be chaos," the spokesman said.
Despite BT's anxieties, many industry watchers welcomed Oftel's proposals.Bob Jones, chairman of start-up Internet hardware company Equiinet, said: "This is good news. It's a step forward. I don't see what the difficulty is for BT to have competitors equipment on the loop.
"You can plug a router into an ISDN socket with no problem; it may work it, may not. I think it's scaremongering on the part of BT. If the exchanges are not secure, that's BT's problem."
- Trials held in north west London, deploying 2000 lines of ADSL have so far been successful BT said.
BT placed multimillion-pound orders for ADSL equipment with Alcatel and Fujitsu last week.
BT will equip the first 400 exchanges (which covers 6 million users) between now and next spring.
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