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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 08:47 GMT
Local loop loses out
Cable repair man
Unbundling is not going well
Attempts to give European consumers a wider choice when they sign up for broadband internet access seem to be failing.

A survey of the growth of broadband piped to homes via phone lines shows that former national telecommunication operators retain control of the market for fast net links.

European Union laws to force incumbent operators to share their phone lines with rivals are having little effect on this stranglehold.

Currently only a tiny percentage of European broadband net connections are accessed via lines unbundled from incumbent telecommunications companies.

Line break

This is despite action by the EU to ensure that former telecommunication monopolies in member countries make it easy for rivals to take over telephone lines and offer their own-brand services - a process known as local loop unbundling (LLU).

The deadline for putting in place procedures to make unbundling easy was the start of 2001.

By enacting these laws, the EU hoped to stimulate competition over a broadband technology known as Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. This turns a phone line into one capable of shuttling data around many times faster than is possible with a dial-up modem.

But more than 12 months after the deadline passed a study by the European Competitive Telecommunications Association has found that only 3% of the 4.1 million DSL lines in Europe are being provided by new entrants.

The vast majority of companies offering DSL services are doing so by reselling lines from incumbent operators rather than striking out on their own.

More worryingly the incumbent operators also have a majority share of these DSL lines.

According to the ECTA a telecommunications firm other than the former monopoly operator provides figures only 7% of the DSL lines.

"The few new entrants left in the market are, in most countries, unable to co-locate and acquire lines on a timely or economic basis," said Paul Evins, managing director of ECTA.

In the UK BT's rivals have taken over only 164 telephone lines.

Only Germany and Denmark seem to be making significant progress on unbundling phone lines. In Denmark 40,000 lines have been handed over to rivals and in Germany 623,000.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | Business
No answer to BT's unbundling call
30 Jul 01 | Business
BT local loop 'not for sale'
23 Aug 01 | Business
Broadband fines threat to BT
21 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
MPs slate high-speed net rollout
28 Nov 01 | Business
Europe to punish broadband laggards
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