UK telecoms customers are being denied access to some competitive services, while elsewhere in Europe competition has taken off rapidly, according to industry analyst firm Dataquest.
Even though the UK's telecom market was liberalised in 1996, regulator Oftel has kept a tight grip on competition, limiting new operators' access to and protecting BT's market share, Steve Wallage, principal analyst at Dataquest, will tell attendees at the annual Dataquest Predicts conference in Paris this week.
Meanwhile, in other European countries where liberalisation only took place at the end of 1998, the market has already caught up and overtaken the UK in the roll out of some key services, claimed Wallage, in an exclusive advance interview.
"In the UK, whereas it has a more competitive market and its regulatory environment is more developed, in other ways other countries have overtaken," Wallage said.
He said key services were absent from the UK market, but emerging in Europe are carrier pre-selection and an unbundled local loop.
Carrier pre-selection is where a customer can chose to use an alternative carrier to complete a call over a BT phone without having to dial a prefix before each call.
Unbundling the local loop gives alternative carriers access to BT's local phone networks.
"This has partly been a deliberate policy by Oftel. It perceived that some of these ways would discourage infrastructure build," said Wallage.
This regime prevents new operators getting an easy ride on the back of BT without investing in the infrastructure.
"There is a body of opinion that says Oftel has been quite slow to open up the market place. You could argue that Oftel could have been tougher," he said.
However, BT has benefited from the tight control and lost just 24% of its national call revenue.
Elsewhere, Finland's former national operator has already lost 58% market share and Germany's Deutsche Telekom around 20%, according to Wallage.
At the conference, Wallage will highlight how BT should defend itself - mainly by diversifying and maintaining their brand status - and what new carriers should do to succeed - creating look-alike services, then finding niches and target areas.
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