Telecoms regulator Oftel has been accused of favouring BT in its technical guidelines outlining which services can be installed on the telco's local networks.
After industry discussions failed to find consensus on which high-speed technologies could be deployed without interfering with each other, Oftel has published a so-called lowest common denominator guideline that it wants every company to adhere to. The watchdog is under pressure from the UK government to keep full unbundling on track for July 2001
But some participants in the debate said Oftel's proposals favour BT. US network equipment vendor Paradyne wanted to include a high bit-rate digital subscriber line (HDSL) service using carrierless amplitude phase (Cap) technology. Operators using this technology could compete with BT's leased line business.
BT argued that this Cap technology, which provides 2Mbps bi-directional transmissions, would affect the data rates of asymmetric DSL (ADSL), which it is investing heavily in. Under the terms of its licence, BT has final say over what equipment can be installed on its network.
Oftel's conciliatory proposal includes Cap-based services but at a lower data rate than BT rivals wanted. BT said the inclusion of a higher bit-rate Cap HDSL system could have an impact on service quality levels for up to five per cent of ADSL users. However, other members of the industry have claimed that testing has shown that in 400,000 different scenarios for DSL deployment the worst disruption to ADSL measured than less than one per cent.
Fibernet, a high-speed data networking company, has been selected by Oftel to participate in the DSL trials on BT's local loop, due to begin in January 2001.
Nigel Pitcher, assistant director of marketing at Fibernet, said: "We are frankly amazed that BT's commercial interests should be put ahead of the needs of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) for world-class broadband service and look forward to a corrected proposal from Oftel."
BT said it is unable to comment on the proposals, but it is believed to be happy with Oftel's proposed technical guidelines.
Oftel said it will now seek the views of operators, service providers and other interested parties on the proposals by 5 July 2000. Trials on the network have been scheduled to start on 3 January 2001, with a full launch on 1 July 2001 at the latest.
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