Oftel looks into BT's use of data: Watchdog examines possible anti-competitive practices

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The Independent Online
OFTEL, the telecommunications watchdog, is to investigate BT's use of information about its rivals, gleaned during negotiations between BT and other telephone companies that need to link into its wires.

Don Cruickshank, director general of Oftel, said the other telecommunications operators were worried that BT could use the information for anti-competitive purposes. 'What is clearly a matter of concern for them must be a matter of concern for me,' he said.

The investigation is one of a range of measures initiated by Oftel to make way for faster growth of competition in telephone services.

The watchdog is also going ahead with number portability, which would allow customers to change from BT to a rival company without changing their telephone numbers. Mr Cruickshank said this was particularly important to the success of cable television companies in providing local telephony services.

It has already been agreed that, from early next year, Oftel will take charge of the national telephone numbering system so that BT no longer allocates codes and blocks of numbers to rival operators, as is now the case.

On Monday, Oftel hosted the first industry workshop, where more than a dozen new network operators joined BT and Mercury to debate these and other changes needed in the industry.

The main problems are related to the ability of other companies to interconnect easily to the BT network and the cost of doing so. Oftel is seeking a clarification of how BT works out the cost of carrying calls for other companies, and how this is related to the charges it imposes.

The watchdog has also agreed with BT that it should provide more information on its telephone network both for customers and to help companies entering the market.

Mr Cruickshank said there was commitment from all the companies, including BT, to continue discussions in an industry forum.