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Fourteen Companies Will Trial BT's Unbundled Loop

The U.K's Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) has reported "significant progress" in moves to unbundle BT's local loop, with 14 companies to participate in trials of high-speed services starting in January 2001.

Oftel added that from September this year companies will be able to place orders for renting space in BT's local exchanges for the co-location of their own equipment.

The deadline for the installation of equipment remains July 2001, although Oftel does not rule out an improved timetable if BT and the industry make sufficient progress.

David Edmonds, Director General of Telecommunications, said he was pleased with the "real progress" made so far, and that it showed the strong commitment to introduce local loop unbundling as soon as possible.

"The industry has selected 14 companies to run trials of the new services in four areas. Work will shortly begin to prepare facilities in BT's exchanges and these operators will begin providing high-speed services to selected customers by January 2001," said Edmonds.

Edmonds said Oftel is consulting on a draft licence condition that will set out the legal framework through which BT will be required to provide unbundled loops to other operators. He said he expected this to be in place by June.

The initial trials of unbundled local loops will take place in London (Battersea), Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast.

The 14 operators that will take part in the trials are Colt, CWC, Easynet, Eircom, Energis, Fibernet, First Telecom, Global Crossing, Kingston Communication, MCI Worldcom, NTL, Telewest, Telinco and Thus.

Unbundling BT's local loop in order to introduce real competition into the market for high-speed services is widely seen as one of the most far-reaching developments in the U.K's Internet industry. Many interested parties, including various Government departments, would like to see faster progress.

Earlier this week, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued a report that said fast Internet access (along with other measures) was going to be essential for the continued health of the music industry in the U.K.



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