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Oftel sets unmetered deadline

BT must cut wholesale unmetered prices by March

Unmetered internet access has been given another nudge towards ubiquity after telecomms watchdog Oftel ordered BT to give competitors fuller access to its network yesterday.

Oftel told BT, accused of dragging its feet over the unbundling process, to offer other service providers, such as AOL and Freeserve, a new unmetered internet access product known as ST FRIACO by 26 February.

After an 18-month uphill struggle Oftel has now enforced this deadline to ease concerns over unfair line distribution to competing operators.

“A deadline can only be set once a determination [of the whole process] has been made,” said a spokesperson for Oftel. “The deadline then falls seven days after that date.” In lay terms this means Oftel has worked out BT can do this, and has now told it firmly to do so.

The current FRIACO (flat-rate internet access call origination) service conveys internet calls to BT’s local exchanges. ST (single tandem) FRIACO will send the calls across the BT network to the operators’ own networks.

The move should now enable operators to compete efficiently with BT. Oftel set the price internet providers would have to pay at between £7 and £8 per connection per month for the unlimited internet access lines.

Oftel acknowledged recognises BT’s local exchanges may be overloaded and has therefore incorporated measures in the agreement to handle the anticipated growth in internet traffic.


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