Oftel has forced BT to do a U-turn on its flat rate unmetered internet access strategy after a study found that the increase in traffic will not damage the telco's network.
The watchdog made its decision after receiving complaints from US telco WorldCom and internet service provider (ISP) America Online (AOL).
Previously, BT said that a completely unmetered wholesale service would be impossible because the likely increase in internet traffic and call duration expected to result from flat rate services would place its network under severe strain.
David Edmonds, director general of telecoms at Oftel, agreed that the volume of traffic on BT's network is doubling every 10 months and that unmetered internet access is likely to increase this growth.
"Oftel has put forward measures to enable growth in internet traffic by taking the traffic off BT's network and encouraging it to take steps to increase capacity on its network," he said. "These measures should allow millions of people to have unlimited access to the internet without worrying about running up high call charges."
The new model is an enhancement of the current wholesale product, which is known as flat rate internet access call origination. It is based on a flat rate connection between the end user and the local exchange, with an additional metered tariff from the local exchange over BT's trunk network to the operator's network.
Oftel's ruling will ensure that operators do not have to pay the extra costs to convey the calls to their own network. "We are looking at the details in Oftel's document and will pass comment in due course," said a BT spokesperson.
Matt Peacock, AOL UK representative, said: "This is really good news and we applaud Oftel for getting this right. This means that more ISPs can offer true flat rate unmetered internet access."
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