EU prods telecoms giants

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The Independent Online
The European Commission, intent on deeper and faster deregulation of the telcommunications industry, will put pressure on member countries to spell out how they intend to meet the January 1998 deadline to provide fully competitive services and infrastructure,

Commission sources said that political commitments to deregulate were inadequate, although Germany's promise this week to create a competitive telecoms environment within three years was a positive step.

The Commission may use its powers to oblige countries to meet specific targets for liberalising the market for "alternative infrastructures" - Eurospeak for networks outside the systems developed by the large, state- owned monopolies.

Alternative suppliers should be enabled to interconnect to existing networks at rates and under conditions that are known in advance and in considerable detail, the Commission is likely to insist.

Only Britain among European Union countries has opened its markets completely. France has yet to unveil plans to meet the 1998 target date.

BT, which has a joint venture with the German energy company Viag to enter the German market, welcomed the Commission's aims. "The German announcement this week said nothing more than that they would comply with the deadline. No details are being brought forward," a spokesman said.