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State of the nation - Local Loop Unbundling
Thursday 26 October 2006 16:43:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Local loop unbundling which allows a provider to install its own hardware at the BT telephone exchange and provide you with broadband and/or telephone services rather than just reselling a BT Wholesale connection is growing rapidly in the UK. Point Topic has taken a look at some of the history and current state of play between the various providers engaged in the area. Their analysis can be found here.

As we know there are over 850,000 unbundled telephone lines in the UK, but compared to France this is small. In France 30.2% of all DSL lines are unbundled, compared to 6.6% in the UK. This is not just an issue of France having more exchanges unbundled, the estimated 820 exchanges unbundled in the UK provide a potential unbundled service to 48.8% of households.

The growth of unbundling is very different across the UK regions, with Northern Ireland not having one exchange unbundled, but areas like London and Greater Manchester are showing that BT's share of DSL lines has dropped by 5.2% and 0.2% respectively.

Share of LLU lines by UK Region, 30 Jun 2006

Region

% share of LLU lines

East Midlands 4%
East of England 7%
London 45%
North East 1%
North West 11%
Scotland 2%
South East 15%
South West 4%
Wales 1%
West Midlands 6%
Yorkshire and The Humber 4%

The UK LLU market is still relatively new, with Bulldog being one of the older players. The table below gives a figure of around 50,000 unbundled lines for Carphone Warehouse, but the company announced earlier this month it had just 20,000 unbundled lines.

LLU lines and exchanges unbundled by operator, 30 Jun 2006

Provider

Number of LLU exchanges

Number of LLU lines

AOL 200 100,000
Be Unlimited 160 80,000
Bulldog 500 120,000
Carphone Warehouse 200 50,000
Easynet/BSkyB/UK Online 230 40,000
Edge 20 1000
Homechoice 140 45,000
Node4 10 Under 1000
Pipex 10 Unknown
Tiscali 218 85,000
Orange/Wanadoo 218 80,000
Zen Under 10 Under 1000
All figures are approximations

If unbundling is to bring the option of an alternative telecoms and broadband provider to millions in the UK, then issues like cost and service quality need to be addressed. Low pricing will attract many people, but the danger that many will find the quality lacking and be put off of any future unbundled service does exist. Unbundled providers need to look carefully at the quality of service people have come to expect from BT Wholesale ADSL services and the retail telephone service in the last six years, and at least match that. With the high fault rates on migrating people to a LLU service this is difficult, and while many of the problems are down to Openreach all too often it seems poor communication from the providers own over stretched support staff leaves customers wanting to go elsewhere.

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