A lifeline for the Dirty Dozen exchanges
The Dirty Dozen exchanges that we listed back in September may have a glimmer of hope on the horizon. An unnamed LLU provider has apparently agreed to enable those exchanges. If it does go ahead it is thought that the provider will try to get the exchanges up and running as soon as possible, apparently 2-3 months from now. There is an element of risk in the plan, the viability of an LLU provider competing directly with BT Wholesale on an exchange that has not had ADSL before has not been tested in the UK.
It is believed that the initial service will be a simple 512kbps 50:1 service limited to 100 users, but as soon as that target is met expansion will take place to start offering more business friendly packages.
In a lot of ways this is the sort of competition that the UK government has planned on happening to push the roll-out of broadband around the country. The BT demand registration scheme should allow both BT and potential competitors to see where demand exists. The question for competitors using LLU, wireless and other technologies is whether the demand for a BT ADSL product will translate across to the alternatives. The presence of existing broadband campaigners in many areas will help this, since there is someone local who can act as a local source of information for peoples questions.
Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) services allow a competitor to rent space in a BT exchange and install their own DSLAM which is connected to the competitors own back-haul network. An unbundled ADSL line, can still provide a normal BT voice service, or it can be a dedicated line, the choice is down to the provider. At present the UK has around 7,600 unbundled lines and this is growing at a faster rate each month, and there are plans afoot to make 2004 the year of the unbundled loop.