Local loop unbundling (LLU) - the process that enables rival companies to provide telecoms services direct to end users by-passing BT - is still dogged by difficulties.
That's according to Peter Black, the independent Telecoms Adjudicator appointed in July to make LLU work in the UK. In an update published yesterday Mr Black noted that while some "significant milestones" have been passed, take-up of unbundled lines continues to disappoint: "Significant operational problems remain", he said, even though he acknowledged that BT is showing more willingness to engage in the LLU process.
Wrote Mr Black: "We continue to have the support of the Industry and BT in moving the LLU capability forward. Order levels are climbing both for co-location and customer lines. Both are following the curves we expected, however the actual volumes are lagging slightly. Significant operational problems remain; however most operators see improvements and in particular the intensity of interest from senior BT management is having a noticeable and welcome impact."
While not all the operational problems are down to BT, most are. Internal processes that were never meant to see the light of day are now being exposed to scrutiny. And it ain't pretty - underlining the depth and complexity of work that needs to be done to make LLU work. A major concern among operators is the fear that BT just can't handle a huge demand for unbundled lines. This is improving, but until LLU can be done on an industrial scale, mass market operators are unlikely to commit themselves if they face being hammered by administrative and operational cock-ups.
Even so, there are currently around 24,000 unbundled lines in the UK with numbers swelling by around a thousand lines a week. Based on forecasts for the number of lines operators are looking to unbundle against the capability for BT to deliver those lines, the LLU regulator has outlined a number of key targets. By January 2005, for example, he wants BT to have the capability to unbundle 50,000 lines. By June, that figure rises to 250,000; a year later and BT should be able to deliver one million unbundled lines.
Black concluded: "BT have demonstrated their 'intent to succeed', we must now move to the 'evidence and confidence of delivery' phase." ®