Oftel proposes charge levels for BT loop access

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The Independent Online

The telecoms watchdog Oftel yesterday published proposals setting the wholesale prices British Telecom can charge for access to its local exchanges.

The telecoms watchdog Oftel yesterday published proposals setting the wholesale prices British Telecom can charge for access to its local exchanges.

The proposed annual charge for operators to access one BT local loop to provide always-on internet service was set at £118, with a one-off £95 connection charge. The charge for connecting 100 loops to an operator's equipment by an internal tie cable is proposed to be £21 a year, with a £1,433 connection fee.

A BT spokeswoman said: "These prices are based very much in the range people were expecting." BT rivals, including Redstone Telecom and Atlantic Telecom, expressed similar views.

David Edmonds, Oftel director general, said: "I am confident these charges are at a level that will encourage competition in the provision of broadband services. They will allow other operators to provide new, higher-bandwidth services to consumers at competitive prices."

Local loop unbundling, or LLU, is to begin early next year. It will see competitors use BT's local copper wire lines to offer asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) technology, which can make internet access speeds about 10 times quicker than narrowband access.

BT is preparing about 360 of its 5,500 exchanges for LLU service, to begin in the first quarter next year. More exchanges will be opened in the next two years. Companies opting to access unbundled loops will have to pay other operating costs related to space rental, maintenance and electricity costs. They will also pay about £500 per line for ADSL equipment.

Telecoms companies have until 4 December to express their views on the charge proposals to Oftel. The charges are expected to take effect on 31 December.

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