Oftel investigates BT's satellite scheme

Oftel, the telecoms regulator, has asked BT and Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB to provide details of their joint marketing of satellite and telephone services, following a complaint from General Cable, the telecoms operator, writes Mathew Horsman.

"We have received a complaint, and we have asked BT to provide details of the arrangements," an Oftel spokeswoman said yesterday.

The complaint, which is supported by at least two other cable companies, follows the announcement last month of a scheme to give satellite dish subscribers pounds 3.30 worth of free telephone calls a month, supplied by BT, and to provide cheaper installation charges and monthly subscription rates to Sky subscribers for a limited time. The arrangement was an extension of schemes offered by BT and BSkyB, and is seen by some cable companies as unfair competition.

But at least two large cable companies were said to be "relaxed" about the schemes, with one saying: "This is just a form of marketing, and is no different, really, from what we do." Cable operators offer combined television and telephony packages to attract new subscribers.

BT said it was unsurprised by the complaint, but stressed the scheme conformed with all aspects of its licence. "The country's leading telecoms operator and the most profitable broadcaster will always attract this sort of interest," a BT spokesman said.