Unbundling will take years say ISPs

Even if the Telecommunications Commissioner does recommend unbundling of the local loop in his final report on the matter, due out later this month, it will be years before end users see an unbundled service, says TelstraClear's government affairs manager Grant Forsyth.

Even if the Telecommunications Commissioner does recommend unbundling of the local loop in his final report on the matter, due out later this month, it will be years before end users see an unbundled service, says TelstraClear's government affairs manager Grant Forsyth.

The commissioner is due to report back to government on December 20 and is widely tipped to recommend unbundling be introduced. However Forsyth says that isn't the end of the matter.

"The report then goes to government which will read over it and may need to get advice from the ministry on it." Forsyth says that could delay any implementation until at least April.

"From there the new regulations have to be drafted and then new codes introduced relating to those regulations."

Although Australia has gone through a similar process in the last year or so, Forsyth says it will still take between six and nine months to formulate the various codes required to make unbundling work.

"Then we have to negotiate a commercial agreement with Telecom. If that doesn't go well we could end up back before the commissioner seeking a determination on each matter that we can't negotiate."

Forsyth says it will take at least three months to reach the point of turning to the commissioner for help.

"The commissioner's office hopefully is on top of things because they've just undertaken this report so that shouldn't take too long to sort out at that point."

Forsyth says he would expect TelstraClear would be able to begin putting its equipment into Telecom exchanges in the middle of 2005.

"Then once it's in place we'd be able to offer service."

Auckland-based ISP ICONZ is even more pessimistic on the timeline. General manager Sean Weekes says it could take up to four years before lines are unbundled and service is offered.

"That's the sort of thing we've seen overseas. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't up to four years."

Forsyth says this is one of the reasons why bitstream access or spectrum sharing as its known in Australia, is so important.

"If we had access just to the bitstream we would be able to move much faster. It's just another service on Telecom's network that way and we'd be able to go in without adding in our own gear."

Forsyth says TelstraClear would chose to do that in areas where the full cost of unbundling, including introducing extra equipment, wouldn't make it cost effective.

"We don't expect every line in the country to be unbundled so bitstream access would ensure that every customer in New Zealand was able to get wholesale service from ISPs and telcos."

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