European telecoms regulators have been blamed for the slow uptake of ADSL technology in Europe.
French telecoms equipment manufacturer Alcatel slammed regulators last week for inhibiting asymmetric digital subscriber line technology, which would vastly speed up Internet access to business and home users.
Alcatel predicts that, after a slow start, ADSL will finally take a grip in Europe this year. The company made the same prediction last year.
The outcry follows PC Week's revelation that BT's trial of ADSL has suffered a setback, postponing the end of the pilot stage to July (PC Week, 19 January).
ADSL provides high-speed communications, on a par with speeds over fibre cable, over existing copper telephone networks. Alcatel holds around a third of the world's ADSL equipment market and around half the US market.
BT has been trialling ADSL for around two years, but still has no commercial roll out date. People have accused operators like BT of delaying ADSL, but Alcatel believes the problem is also with the regulators.
"The problem here is with the regulators, not just the operators," said Peter Radley, managing director of Alcatel UK.
Roll out of ADSL hinges around ownership of the copper local loop, something BT still has a monopoly over in the UK - hence its power over the timing of a commercial ADSL roll out. Alcatel wants regulation relaxed so other operators are in a position to offer ADSL.
"I would like to see a much more open attitude from Oftel to see (ADSL) really take off," said Radley, "I would like to see a more enlightened and open attitude," he added.
Alcatel's director of business development, Jacques Dunogue, said 1998 was the year the IT industry endorsed ADSL, with 100 trials established with telecoms operators. "Now it is in the hands of the Bell operators in the US and the telcos around the world," he added. "It is time to take their destiny in their hands if they don't want to be eaten alive by the cable companies."
Dunogue said he expects uptake of ADSL in Europe to be around six months behind the US. ADSL will start taking off in Europe in the second half of 1999, he said, followed by bigger growth in 2000.
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