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Freeserve to do battle with Oftel over BT Broadband
Thursday 24 October 2002 10:28:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Freeserve has apparently lodged a complaint with Oftel over the ability for BT Retail and its BT Broadband "no frills" product to gain an 'uncompetitive' advantage in the consumer market for ADSL.

BBC News Online carries some of the details. In the main, it appears that Freeserve is complaining about BT Retail's ability to use the 150 service and 'Blue Bill' marketing (the BT Update leaflet). What is strange about this complaint is the timing, it has been known that BT Retail would be doing this for some months and with regards advertising has published two or three leaflets pushing BT Broadband services. Mind you, if Freeserve were in BT's position they would probably do the same. So why lodge the complaint now? Free publicity perhaps? Spoiler for the advertising BT Retail has been running? If Freeserve do have wider market concerns, one would have expected them to garner support from other ISPs.

One problem facing Freeserve is that their ADSL product is not very different from the BT Broadband one, with the exception of an email account. So competition needs to be either on price, quality of service or value added products.

We look forward to the Oftel ruling which will probably appear around January 2003, by which time if Freeserve wait for it, then BT Retail will have a very large share of the market, they are already surpassing Freeserve in the number of users. What is strange is that Freeserve has proved to be very reluctant to completely embrace ADSL. They are sitting on a massive database of dialup users ripe for conversion. Perhaps Freeserve view their dialup customers as a considerable revenue stream compared to the fixed pricing and lower profit margins delivered by ADSL.

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