BT's rivals hope for progress on link-up charges: Mary Fagan reports on industry expectations for an Oftel consultation document

BT'S expanding group of competitors in the provision of telecommunications services are hoping for a boost from Oftel, the industry watchdog, with the publication tomorrow of a consultation document on how much telephone companies should be charged to use BT's wires.

The consultation document on the issue of interconnection charges will be accompanied by Oftel's thoughts on the controversial question of accounting separation at BT.

BT strongly resists the idea of separating and clarifying the costs of running different parts of its business, fearing this would be a precursor to a potential break-up of the company. However, it is regarded as vital in the industry if new telephone network operators are to succeed.

Cable television companies and new entrants such as Energis, the telecommunications arm of the National Grid Company, argue that they will not obtain fair play when using BT's network until the costs of each part of BT's operations are made clear and there is transparency in interconnection charges. Oftel is also expected to rule soon on a new interconnection agreement between BT and Mercury Communications. Any new deal is expected to be considerably cheaper for Mercury. Mercury also believes that BT owes it up to pounds 50m in back payments, as the new agreement is supposed to be backdated to August last year.

Until now the terms for interconnecting to BT's network to complete calls have been negotiated between BT and the operator concerned. Oftel is called in when talks collapse, and the process can take many months.

New telecommunications companies have been waiting for months for some sign of a resolution. However the problem has been exacerbated by BT's resistance and by changes at Oftel. Since April, the watchdog has had a new director-general, Don Cruickshank, a former Virgin executive.

David Dey, the chief executive of Energis, hopes that Mr Cruickshank will take a radical new approach to regulation. He says that Oftel must publish without delay a schedule of interconnection tariffs so that each telephone operator knows exactly what it is faced with when it makes business plans.

Energis, whose basic network will be founded on the nation's electricity system, expects to be one of BT's biggest interconnect customers. It hopes to be able to serve 70 per cent of the population within a year.

However, according to Mr Dey, himself a former senior executive with BT: 'We do not want a war with BT but we are running into obfuscation. We do not intend to allow Oftel to spend 12 months looking into it.' The implied threat is that Energis could take the matter to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

The Oftel consultation documents come at a sensitive time, as the Government is weeks away from the pounds 5bn sale of more shares in BT. A key issue for BT is the expansion of cable television companies into telephony, as they will be the most serious threat to BT's local services. The companies depend on BT or Mercury to deliver their calls beyond their franchise areas. A favourable move from Oftel on interconnection charges could give them a substantial boost.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot