UK telecoms regulator Oftel has announced the second phase of unbundling BT's local exchanges, but the process is way behind European Parliament deadlines.
Another 360 of the BT's 5000 or so local exchanges will be made available to rival telcos, bringing the total number of exchanges allocated so far to 741.
Only one operator can co-install equipment in each exchange, which lead to further delays while BT's 25+ rivals agreed an auction process. There are now less than seven months for the telcos to install and test their equipment to ensure they can roll out services by BT's schedule, June 2001.
Of the 360 sites included in the second round of the auction process, 199 are in London and the Home Counties (bringing the total allocated to date to 336). Elsewhere, 55 are in the Midlands (110); 16 in Wales and the West of England (67); 30 in the North West (56); 27 in the North East (61); 31 in Scotland (89); and two in Northern Ireland (2).
Oftel said most of the new sites are centred around London, Glasgow and Birmingham, and said sound progress is being made in a process it had previously described as a logistical nightmare.
Anne Lambert, director of operations at Oftel, said: "The first trial site in Leeds has now been handed over to other operators, and detailed designs and costings are now being drawn up for co-location at exchanges allocated in the first round.
"We will continue to press BT to ensure that the exchanges selected today are surveyed and made ready for operators as soon as possible."
Commercial services are promised to be widely available by July 2001.
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