BT Cellnet and Vodafone will be legally obliged to provide independent service providers with wholesale airtime, as part of a series of tough new measures to increase competition and reduce prices for mobile phone customers.
Following a review of the market, the Office of Telecommunications has announced plans to determine whether price controls are needed, by establishing a detailed price monitoring structure to assess the extent of competition in the mobile market.
Oftel will also investigate whether dominant network operators BT Cellnet and Vodafone are acting anti-competitively by cross subsidising their own tied service providers at the expense of independent operators.
"If this is the case, then I cannot rule out enforcement proceedings being taken by Oftel," director general of the telecoms watchdog David Edmonds said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Oftel said that although competition continued to grow, the measures were designed to provide more scope for consumers to get a better deal.
The indirect mandate for BT and Vodafone is expected to encourage the introduction of new services and service providers.
"Although third generation mobile phone will deliver many new innovative services, Oftel believes that network operators and service providers could provide many more innovative and value added services over existing networks," Edmonds said.
No dates have been set for the measures to come into force.
A spokesman from Orange said Oftel has been, "talking about this for a long time."
"There is nothing in Oftel's statement that impacts on today's [ISP launch] announcement from Orange or our plans for going forward," the spokesman said.
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