Select Committee on Trade and Industry Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Patricia Hewitt MP, Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce, Department of Trade and Industry to the Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 9 January 2001. As I explained at the Trade and Industry Committee on 13 December, I have been keeping track of the progress on local loop unbundling (LLU) on a regular basis. I fully understand your desire to keep abreast of developments in this area and have discussed with Oftel the publication of a monthly report on their website.

  As you acknowledge, there are still commercial confidentiality issues to consider, one of these being the disclosure of sites selected for unbundling under the Bow Wave process. While Oftel would not be able to publish this type of information at present, there are a number of facts and figures relating to LLU that would assist your Committee and the public in general. Oftel intends to begin publishing a document, that will be updated monthly, on their website starting in February 2001. I will ensure that a copy is sent directly to you.

  I thought I might take the opportunity to bring you up to date with recent developments on local loop unbundling. Trials of services by operators over unbundled loops have now begun in Battersea and Belfast.

  Last month, operators were able to place firm orders for co-location at the first 25 sites. Operators did not put in as many orders for co-location as had been anticipated. This was due to a number of reasons, not least changes to operators' own business plans. However, in order to ensure that any teething problems with the process were addressed, Oftel called a meeting of operators and BT.

  A number of measures were agreed at the meeting. BT and the operators agreed to bring forward access to the most popular exchanges and BT will now concentrate their resources on carrying out detailed surveys and cost estimates at these exchanges. It is hoped that operators will put in orders so that building work can begin before Easter. Oftel is also looking at the cost estimates BT have put forward for co-location work. Work is in hand to ensure that co-location facilities accurately meet the needs of operators who are committed to the unbundling process. These steps should help to streamline the process.

2 February 2001

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