The UK telecoms watchdog, Oftel, has published further measures to increase competition in the provision of services over unbundled local loops.
On shared access, operators will be given the option of providing voice calls and higher bandwidth services (such as fast Internet access, video on demand or high-speed data transfer) or higher bandwidth services only over unbundled loops.
Consumers can therefore choose to buy higher bandwidth services from a competing operator while retaining their existing voice service with BT or Kingston Communications.
As well as providing greater choice for consumers, the proposals are intended to promote effective competition, leading to better service quality or lower prices.
Oftel has also separately approved technical guidelines on the types of equipment that operators can use to provide a wide range of services to consumers and businesses over unbundled local loops.
David Edmonds, director general of telecommunications, said: “Allowing two operators to provide different services over one telephone line means customers can choose to keep their existing company for voice calls and buy high-speed services from a competitor. Shared access will also make it easier for competitors to enter the market, as it allows companies to offer DSL services without voice telephony.
“This will increase choice for consumers, and is why Oftel has welcomed the inclusion of shared access in the European Commission’s proposed regulation on local loop unbundling.
“In addition, the new guidelines ensure that there are no problems over compatibility or interference in the provision of services.”
The consultation document on shared access proposes two technical options for the implementation of shared access. Either the incumbent (BT or Kingston Communications) leases the higher frequency spectrum to other operators, or the competitors take charge of the line and lease back the voice telephony frequency to the incumbent. Oftel believes operators should have a choice of both options.
Oftel will determine the price of shared lines and the pricing principles it proposes to use are also set out in the document.
Oftel seeks comments from consumers, the industry and other interested parties on the its proposals on shared access by 21 November and comments on these comments by 7 December. Thereafter Oftel will issue a statement setting out its firm conclusions and the way forward.