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A brief history of recent UK telecoms and Oftel Layout image
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Contents  

Before 1969

1969

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

 


Before 1969

The General Post Office (GPO), a Government Department headed by a Government Minister (the Postmaster General), had a monopoly in UK telecoms and postal services. This included the operation of the network and supply of all equipment. Kingston upon Hull City Council ran the network in the Hull area.

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1969

October The Post Office Act 1969 established the GPO as a statutory corporation headed by a Chairman appointed by the Government.

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1980

July Industry Secretary Sir Keith Joseph announced the Government’s intention to restructure the GPO and relax the monopoly over terminal equipment and value-added services.

November The British Telecommunications Bill sought authority to divide the GPO into two separate organisations – Posts and British Telecom.

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1981

January Professor Michael Beesley submitted his report on liberalisation to the Secretary of State for Industry.

October The Telecommunications Bill received royal assent. Apart from formalising the split in the GPO, it also established new responsibilities for the British Standards Institution (BSI) and set up the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications (BABT) – a subsidiary of the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board. British Telecom began operating under a licence and independent suppliers of telephones were permitted.

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1982

January BT began to sell telephones and install ‘plug in’ master sockets (as opposed to hard-wired installations).

February The Mercury consortium received a licence to build and operate an independent network to compete across the full range of telecoms services.

June BT telephone suppliers were permitted to sell in competition to BT.

July The Government published a White Paper (Cm8610) proposing the sale of 51% of British Telecom and the creation of Oftel as the regulatory body.

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1983

February The Government accepted the recommendations of a report by Professor Stephen Littlechild to limit British Telecom’s main price increases by RPI–X%. The formula was set at RPI–3% for the first five years of privatisation.

April Mercury launched its first telecoms services in the City of London.

May Licences were granted to Cellnet and Vodafone to provide national cellular radio networks.

July The Telecommunications Bill was reintroduced. The Bill allowed for the selling of BT and setting up of Oftel.

November Minister for Information Technology Kenneth Baker set out the ‘duopoly’ policy limiting the number of long-distance fixed-link operators to two – British Telecom and Mercury – for seven years. (Kingston upon Hull City Council would continue to supply the service in the Hull area.) He also announced further liberalisation in equipment supply and maintenance.

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1984

April The Telecommunications Bill received royal assent on 12 April.

June British Telecom’s and Kingston-upon-Hull City Council’s licences were published.

July Professor Bryan Carsberg was appointed as Director General of Telecommunications.

August Oftel was officially created on 1 August. That month BT became a public limited company.

October A joint IBM/British Telecom proposal (known as JOVE) to run a managed data network was refused on the advice of the Director General because of the dominant position such a grouping would have occupied in the market.

November 51% of BT shares were sold to the public – a total of 3,012 million ordinary shares. The purchase price was 130p and the offer was 3.2 times oversubscribed.

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1985

January BT’s monopoly on the supply and maintenance of the prime (first) telephone ended.

The two cellular operators, Cellnet and Vodafone, began commercial service. Later in the year the operators were issued with revised 25-year licences.

June The Director General invited applications for the running of national private mobile radio (in the old Band III frequencies) and regional London PMR networks.

October The Director General published his determination of the terms for the interconnection of British Telecom’s and Mercury’s networks.

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1986

March Band Three Radio Ltd and GEC National One were announced as the successful applicants for trunked national public access mobile radio (PMR – in Band III) operators’ licences.

May Mercury began offering basic network services

December BT’s monopoly on the supply and maintenance of extension wiring and sockets ended. BT, Mercury or Kingston-upon-Hull City Council in Hull still have to install the master socket.

The Secretary of State delegated his powers to approve telecoms apparatus and designate standards to the Director General.

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1987

A strike by BT’s engineers at the beginning of the year led to quality of service issues being prominent.

March The Director General published his determination on international accounting arrangements for BT and Mercury.

June A pilot scheme for approval of some simple telecoms equipment was introduced. Applicants could deal direct with certain test laboratories.

The EC published a green paper – Towards a Dynamic European Economy – on the development of telecoms in the common market.

August The Under-Secretary of State for Industry confirmed that Cellnet and Vodafone would provide the UK part of the pan-European digital cellular radio service.

Oftel issued a consultative document on BT’s contractual liability with its customers.

September Sir George Jefferson resigned as Chairman of BT and was replaced by Iain Vallance.

October The Director General signed a determination allowing Windsor Television (a broadband cable franchisee) to provide a telephone service in conjunction with Mercury – the first such determination.

Oftel published a quality of service survey and BT began publishing its own quality of service figures.

November The Director General signed a determination allowing Mercury to provide a public call box service in competition with BT. This followed an Oftel survey published in September which showed only 77% of BT public call boxes in working order nationwide. By March 1988 a survey showed that over 87% of BT’s call boxes were working.

Kingston Upon Hull City Council’s licence was revoked and a new dual licence was issued to the Council and Kingston Communications (Hull) plc, the wholly-owned company established by the Council to run its commercial telecoms.

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1988

January Oftel issued a consultative document on what should replace the RPI–3% price cap on BT’s main prices (this formula in BT’s licence was due to run out on 31 July 1989).

May Oftel published the payphone standard. This ended BT’s monopoly on the supply of payphones to customers and meant that occupiers of pubs, shops, etc could purchase and/or run their own payphones on their premises.

July The Director General reached agreement with BT on a new price cap of RPI–4.5% to run from 1 August 1989 to 31 July 1993. The basket was expanded to include operator-assisted calls and any new charged-for services.

The Director General referred the problems relating to multiline chatlines and other message services to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission – Oftel’s first reference.

Mercury launched its first public call box service at Waterloo Station.

August/September There was considerable concern over the quality of service on cellular networks. The Director General began an investigation.

September Mercury started a customer guarantee scheme

October Six licences for specialised satellite services were granted (one way point-to-multipoint services).

December The Macdonald Report on the development of the UK’s communications infrastructure was published by the Department of Trade and Industry.

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1989

January The Director General received a knighthood.

Four telepoint (CT2) licences were issued.

February Oftel published the MMC report on Chatlines and other message services.

April Following Oftel’s consultative document in 1987, BT introduced a compensation scheme for customers giving them 5 per day after two working days for delayed fault repair or provision of service. Alternatively, for proven loss, business customers could claim up to 5000 and residential customers up to 1000.

BT announced there would be a code change in London from 01 to 071/081 in 1990.

July Oftel published a consultative document on ’Numbering for Telephony into the 21st Century’. This looked at options such as code recovery and ten-digit dialling.

August The Director General recommended to the Secretary of State that suitably qualified installers and maintainers should be able to connect call routing apparatus without the pre-connection inspection by the network operator then required. A BSI scheme to qualify installers and maintainers was introduced in 1990.

October Oftel published the first set of monthly statistics on the quality of service on the two cellular networks (run by Cellnet and Vodafone). These were taken from the networks’ own statistics. The survey was discontinued in 1990 due to incompatibility between the two sets of data.

November A new version of the class licence (Branch Systems General Licence) under which the vast majority of people ran their telecoms systems (including residential customers) was issued. This allowed simple resale of spare capacity on private circuits leased from public telecommunications operators.

Unsolicited sales calls by fax or telephone were regulated under this version for the first time.

A determination was made to bring into force in December the amendments made to BT’s operating licence to regulate multiline chatlines and one-to-one live premium rate services, following the MMC reference in 1988. Under the new regulations a code of practice had to be agreed by the Director General – a code was agreed in December. Under the code a compensation scheme for unauthorised use and rules on content were introduced. Similar licence conditions were agreed for the licences of Mercury, Kingston, Cellnet and Vodafone.

December A price control (of RPI) on private circuit prices was introduced. BT began a compensation scheme for delayed service on private circuits.

On Oftel’s advice the Department of Trade and Industry announced that three personal communications network (PCN) licences would be awarded. The original licensees were Mercury PCN, Microtel and Unitel (all consortia).

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1990

May The London code changed on 6 May from 01 to 071 and 081.

June New mobile operators (such as PCN licensees) were told they would be able to sell direct to customers with safeguards for service providers. Steps began to allow existing mobile operators to market direct in the future.

July Oftel took action against four cable TV franchisees over delays in building their networks. This was the first such action.

August The code of practice for live one-to-one premium rate services was revoked and new one containing a requirement to record all conversations approved.

Oftel specified the first installer allowed to connect call routing apparatus to a public network without a pre-connection inspection by the network operator.

October Oftel recognised the concept of logically separate telecoms systems.

November The so-called ‘Duopoly Review’ began with a Department of Trade and Industry consultative document. This looked at the undertaking to introduce no more long-distance fixed-link operators (apart from BT and Mercury) for seven years from November 1983. The review looked at many other aspects of the UK telecoms industry.

December On the last day of the year the Broadcasting Act came into force. Among many other provisions, the Independent Television Committee (ITC) took over from the Cable Authority in granting cable TV franchises.

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1991

January Following the Broadcasting Act 1990 Oftel began monitoring licences for the broadcasting transmission systems of National Transcommunications Ltd (the broadcasting transmission business of the former Independent Broadcasting Authority) and the BBC. The Home Office sold National Transcommunications Ltd later in the year.

February BT began offering itemised billing to customers on digital exchanges.

March The Duopoly Review white paper Competition and Choice: Telecommunications Policy for the 1990s (Cm1461) was published by the Department of Trade and Industry. This set out government policy in many areas. Decisions announced included ending the duopoly policy and allowing international simple resale to destinations with equivalent freedom to the UK. Decisions and proposals requiring licence modifications included: the setting up of the access deficit contribution (ADC) system, Oftel taking over the UK numbering scheme, introducing number portability, more freedoms for cable operators, and changing the price control formula from RPI–4.5% to RPI–6.25% with international prices added to the basket and cut by 10%.

The Ovum report on numbering in the UK proposed a 10-digit scheme (0 plus ten digits for national dialling) to include the concept of personal numbering.

April VAT began to be charged on telephone bills.

BT started charging for directory enquiries. The price went into the controlled basket.

June Oftel consulted on the future of emergency call handling arrangements and puts forward the idea of setting up a specialist call handling agency.

July Following consultation revised proposals for licence modifications to implement the Duopoly Review provisions were agreed with the licensees and the licences modified in September.

The three personal communications network licences were issued.

The Citizens Charter was published (Cm1599) and recommended more powers for public utility regulators.

August A class licence was issued to allow the provision of satellite services (not over the public network).

Another new class licence, the Self-Provision Licence, gave more freedoms for private circuits including the abolition of the distance restriction between linked premises and the permitting of separate maintenance of serially-connected equipment.

The Director General issued an interconnection determination between Vodafone and Mercury.

After discussion with Oftel, BT reduced the maximum deposit asked for to 150 and introduced an appeal procedure.

September The Director General announced his agreement to the proposal for a 10-digit numbering scheme. At this time the PhONEday changes were proposed for April 1994. Plans for Oftel to take over the UK numbering scheme were also published.

The Director General issued an interconnection determination between Cellnet and Mercury.

October Following the suspension of BT’s Phonepoint service, only one (now Hutchison’s) of the original four telepoint licences remained.

December HM Treasury offered for sale up to 1,350 million BT shares. This reduced the Government’s ownership from 47.7% to 25.8%.

The Director General issued a direction to BT aimed at ending the unfair cross-subsidy of its apparatus supply business which included the sale and rental of telephones and other equipment.

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1992

January Oftel began reviewing the controls on BT’s prices. The RPI–6.25% formula was due to run out on 31 July 1993.

February 25-year licences were issued to Cognito Group Ltd (reformed as Cognito Ltd later in the year), Hutchison Mobile Data Ltd and Ram Mobile Data Ltd to run mobile data conveyance services and also for the conveyance of data between fixed terminals. They had previously held temporary licences, having been selected by the Department of Trade and Industry in 1989. A further company, Paknet Ltd, was licensed later in the year and Meteor Communications (Europe) Ltd was licensed to run a data service using meteor reflection techniques.

March Mercury PCN merged with Unitel, reducing the number of PCN licensees to two.

April The code of practice for multiline chatlines was revoked when the compensation fund ran out. These ceased to operate.

The introduction in May 1992 of an approval scheme for the metering and billing systems of public operators was announced.

The two national public access mobile radio (PMR – in Band III) operators, Band Three Radio Ltd and GEC National One merged into one company – National Band Three Ltd. A new long-term licence for the merged company was issued.

May The remaining telepoint operator, Hutchison, launched its ‘Rabbit’ service.

June The Director General issued a statement proposing a new price control formula of RPI–7.5% (from RPI–6.25%) from 1 August 1993. The Director General also set out proposals for accounting separation between different BT businesses.

On 13 June Sir Bryan Carsberg left Oftel to become Director General of Fair Trading. Bill Wigglesworth, the Deputy Director General, took over until 1 April 1993.

The Competition and Services (Utilities) Act came into force.

July PhONEday was postponed from April 1994 to April 1995.

A new class licence, the Telecommunication Services Licence (TSL), was issued in July and came into force in September. A revised Self-Provision Licence (SPL) also came into force in September. These two replaced the Branch Systems General Licence. The vast majority of people run their systems under either the SPL or TSL. Only those offering services to third parties run their systems under the TSL, all the rest run under the SPL.

Eligible cable licensees were offered a licence modification which would liberalise the technical requirements of the systems they were obliged to install. Among the provisions was that cable operators would be able to offer voice telephony in their own right.

August BT agreed to the formula of RPI–7.5% for the basket of main prices, to run from 1 August 1993 to 31 July 1997.

October A driveround survey of quality of service on the cellular networks was launched. It was organised by Oftel and funded by the operators, Cellnet and Vodafone. This was discontinued in October 1993 after three quarters’ results mainly because of funding difficulties.

November Oftel announced additional changes on PhONEday in Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield which would become ‘major city areas’.

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1993

February Agreement was reached with BT on the future control of BT’s private circuit prices. Price rises were to be limited to RPI on three separate baskets: national analogue, national digital and international. The controls would run from 1 August 1993 to 31 July 1997.

Ionica L3 Ltd was granted a nationwide public telecommunications operator (PTO) licence to run a telephone service using short-range digital microwave links. This was the first post-Duopoly Review PTO licence.

BABT included a new condition in approvals of mobile handsets that alteration of the electronic serial number (ESN) would mean the handset was no longer approved.

March BT’s licence was modified to include the RPI–7.5% formula controlling the cost of the basket of BT’s main prices. An amendment requiring BT to publish details of interconnection agreements also come into force.

The National Audit Office published its report on Oftel.

The UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands signed an agreement to allow ‘one-stop shopping’ for licences to provide telecoms services by satellite.

The first results from the cellular driveround survey were published.

April Don Cruickshank took over as Director General of Telecommunications on 1 April.

May A feasibility study on the proposals to set up a specialised agency for handling emergency calls showed the benefits would be marginal. The decision not to proceed was finally made in August.

June Oftel published a consultative document on interconnection and accounting separation setting out proposals on how BT’s businesses should be divided for regulatory accounting purposes.

Another Oftel consultative document looked for views on the use of numbers beginning 02 to 09 after the PhONEday change had taken all geographic numbers to 01.

July The first batch of broadband cable TV licences were modified to enable operators, among other things, to convey voice telephony in their own right.

August The new price control (RI–7.5%) period for BT’s main prices began.

September Mercury One2One began offering a PCN service.

Vodafone started offering GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) digital services.

Oftel published a consultative document on calling line identification (CLI) particularly seeking views on privacy aspects.

October The end of the cellular driveround survey after three quarters was announced, mainly due to lack of funding.

Oftel launched an awareness campaign for PhONEday.

Oftel held its first workshop with operators on interconnection issues.

December BT introduced its weekend rate.

Oftel published the BT/Mercury interconnection determination.

Rabbit, the only telepoint system in operation, stopped offering service.

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1994

January BT introduced the Light User Scheme to replace SupportLine for customers with low use.

The Director General reached agreement with BT that for the remainder of the current price control formula (RPI–7.5%) price changes would be introduced in such a way as to be equivalent to a single price reduction on 1 November each year.

February Following a consultative review in 1993, the Director General proposed several changes in the operation of BT’s Signatory Affairs Office (SAO) to encourage future competition in the provision of satellite services. The main objective was to obtain direct access to international satellite consortia for independent operators.

March BT abolished ‘peak’ rate for local and national direct dialled calls – all weekday daytime calls (8.00am to 6.00pm) would be charged at standard rate.

Oftel set out its three-stage plan to introduce better interconnection arrangements.

Sprint, Telstra and WorldCom International received licences to carry out a number of activities including international simple resale.

Oftel published the draft Numbering Conventions for consultation.

April Orange launched its personal communications network (PCN) services.

May Oftel’s review into market practices in the provision of mobile telephony services was concluded. This followed a wide-ranging complaint from Talkland International (UK) Ltd and others. Among other measures Directions were issued under BT’s, Cellnet’s and Vodafone’s licences requiring steps to be taken to end any unfair cross-subsidisation of service provider businesses linked to these network operators. The Directions were revoked in October when the Director General was satisfied the operators were complying.

Oftel relaxed the rule requiring customers to part prepay for the maintenance contract they must have for any call routing apparatus.

June With the publication of the Numbering Conventions, Oftel took over management of the UK Numbering Scheme.

July BT introduced opting-in, using a PIN number, for 0898 ‘adult’ premium rate services.

Access deficit contribution waivers were granted to eight companies of payments they would otherwise have made to BT. The eight were: ACC, WorldCom, COLT, MFS, Energis, Telewest, Videotron and Nynex.

The Parliamentary Trade and Industry Select Committee (TISC) published its report ‘Optical Fibre Networks’.

August Parallel running began for the lead up to PhONEday in April 1995. Customers could now dial either 01 or 0 plus the area code for national numbers, and 00 or 010 for international numbers.

September Energis launched its service.

Cellnet launched its GSM (digital) service.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the UK met the US equivalence test for international simple resale.

October The President of the Board of Trade designated the US as equivalent for international simple resale.

The Specified Numbering Scheme was determined by the Director General. This completed the process of transferring responsibility for the Numbering Scheme from BT to Oftel. The Scheme was put on the public record, for the first time, at Oftel.

November Oftel and the Department of Trade and Industry published responses to the TISC report on optical fibre networks. No fundamental revision of the regulatory regime covering cable and local delivery franchising would be made.

BT launched its calling line identification services.

December Oftel published A Framework for Effective Competition. This was a wide-ranging consultative document looking at how the regulatory regime needs to evolve. It included four options for changing the interconnection regime and looked at other issues such as capacity charging for interconnection, regulating anti-competitive practices and universal service.

An Oftel investigation into allegations of anti-competitive practice in BT Managed Network Services (BTMNS) proved inconclusive – the matter would be investigated further.

Mercury announced it would be stopping its public call box service progressively during 1995.

Licences were issued to AT&T and Concert (a joint venture between BT and MCI).

Nineteen further access deficit contribution waivers were granted by the Director General.

BABT approved BT’s metering systems.

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1995

January The Telephone Preference Service was launched. Customers could register to avoid some unsolicited telephone sales calls.

February Oftel published The UK Telecommunications Industry: Market Information. This gave information on the size of the market, numbers of customers and market shares.

March BT agreed to the package of licence modifications introducing accounting separation and standard interconnection charges.

Oftel published plans to make public consultations more open and transparent.

April After PhONEday – 16 April – all geographic telephone numbers began 01. The period of parallel running ended.

Oftel granted eight further access deficit contribution (ADC) waivers.

Oftel referred the issue of number portability – the ability of customers to retain their numbers when changing operators – to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC).

May Oftel published a MORI survey on telecoms from the residential customer’s viewpoint.

June Oftel published a consultative document on the future of telephone numbers with geographic significance (the 01 and 02 ranges). (Click here to view this document.)

Industria Politechnica Meridionale Communications plc (IPMC) were granted a licence to provide a public call box service following their take-over of Mercury’s public call box sites.

BT introduced per second charging to replace the unit system.

July Oftel published a consultative document on the regulation of the interface between the customer and the public network.

The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee announced that the National Audit Office would be carrying out a survey of the regulatory framework for electricity, gas, telecoms and water.

Oftel published a major policy statement Effective Competition: Framework for Action following the consultative document published in December 1994. This policy statement considered the path regulation should take towards the goal of a competitive marketplace. Among the recommendations in the document are that: the RPI+2% constraint on online rental price increases (currently imposed on BT) should be lifted, and that BT should be encouraged to introduce a more flexible range of service and tariff offerings to meet the needs of different groups of consumers; Oftel will improve its handling of investigations into complaints of anti-competitive behaviour; new arrangements for universal service provision and funding should be introduced; changes to the service provider regime and a move to incremental costs as the basis for interconnection charges will be further discussed. Full details are contained in the document.

Oftel approved new reduced international accounting rates for calls between BT and US telephone operators.

August Oftel published Beyond the Telephone, the Television and the PC, a consultative document on the development and regulation of broadband switched mass-market services in the UK. The document set out the issues arising from the convergence of various parts of the communications industry – telecommunications, broadcasting and interactive services. A booklet highlighting issues of concern to consumers was published in September.

Finland and New Zealand were designated as equivalent for international simple resale (ISR) services.

September BT Published the first full accounts produced under the new arrangements requiring it to produce separated regulatory accounts for different parts of its business. Oftel consented to two changes.

October Oftel issued a statement on numbering. This followed the consultative exercise on geographic numbering launched in June. There was overall agreement on introducing measures for conserving numbers in the 02 range and Oftel is now taking steps to implement these. Generally people wanted a clear, consistent strategy for numbering and an overall scheme with built-in flexibility. Oftel needs to know more about what information customers want from numbers and to gain a more accurate picture of the level of demand, taking account of new developments and technological trends. Oftel is commissioning a study to find this out. In the meantime, Reading – the only code area where more local numbers are needed before an overall strategy can be put in place – will become a ‘major city area’.

Oftel published a consultative document on The Use of Directory Information, with proposals to boost competition in the running of directory enquiry information databases and other directory based services.

November In a speech at a major education conference the Director General put forward a mechanism for delivering affordable advanced services to schools in the multioperator telecoms market through universal service. He said Oftel would be consulting on this issue in December.

Oftel conducted its first public hearing, chaired by Richard Thomas, Director of Public Policy at Clifford Chance, and attended by over two hundred people. The hearing was on the Director General’s proposed licence condition on anti-competitive behaviour.

For the first time Oftel published its internal management plan for 1995/96 and beyond.

December The publication of a consultative document on Pricing of Telecommunications Services from 1997 started the process of public discussion on the structure of price controls after July 1997 when the current controls in BT’s licence expire. At present only BT is subject to price controls, with a cap of RPI–7.5% applied to a basket of main retail services. The principal proposals were to introduce a network charge cap to act as a broad control on the interconnection charges which competing operators pay to BT and to move some services out of the controlled baskets where there is a clear prospect that they will be subject to increasing competition. Only a light price cap would then be applied to them, in line with Oftel’s deregulatory approach.

Another document for consultation was Universal Telecommunications Services. Particular emphasis was given to looking at the telecommunications needs of educational establishments and of people with disabilities, eg hard of hearing or speech impaired. Views were sought on the possibility of a higher level of universal service for schools and, with the prospect of increased costs for delivering universal service, comments were invited on how a funding mechanism could operate.

A consumer companion was published to accompany the Universal Service and Pricing documents jointly.

In a statement on Fair Trading in Telecommunications, the DG published for consultation his views on how best to achieve fair trading in the telecommunications market. Suggestions included proposed licence amendments for all significant licences and the deletion of a number of conditions in BT’s licence.

Mercury’s licence also came under scrutiny when the publication of A Review of Mercury Communications Limited’s Telecommunications Act Licence started a period of consultation which proposed the removal of certain unnecessary restrictions in the licence.

Other documents published in December included a market research document on Telecoms Services: Influences on Customers Choice of Suppliers, a new edition of Market Information giving figures for market shares from 1992/93 to 1994/95, a consultative document on International Direct Dialled Calls and a statement on number portability following a report by the MMC.

Statutory advertisments were placed for the modifications of conditions in BT’s licence relating to number portability and to the removal of the RPI+2% restriction on BT’s line rental charges.

BT appointed a Director of Compliance to head a new regulatory and competition compliance department, a move which was welcomed by Oftel.

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1996

January Oftel published two reports comparing quality of service offered by telecoms operators, one for residential and one for business customers. The Comparable Performance Indicator reports show how eight leading telecoms companies in the UK performed across five areas, eg repairing faults on time.

The DG announced proposals for further liberalisation in the provision of public payphones, reviewing rules affecting licensees who wish to offer public call box services.

A consultative document setting out Oftel’s proposals for a revised price cap for National Transcommunications Ltd (NTL), the privatised transmission network operator was published.

Oftel published BT’s compliance plans relating to the DG’s Direction of 22 September 95 requiring BT to eliminate unfair subsidies to the Network Applications part of its Apparatus Supply Business.

February Oftel organised an Education Workshop as part of the consultation on Universal Telecommunications Services as well as a consultation meeting for consumers and representatives of the telecommunications industry.

The DG published a Determination of Interim Charges which other operators must pay to BT for interconnection services and for access deficit contributions for 1995/96. The final charges will be published in the autumn when the regulatory accounts for 1995/96 are available.

A consultative document on the Provision of Services over Telecommunications Networks was published, looking at ways of promoting more competition in the provision of existing and future services. Other documents published in February for consultation were A Review of the Trials Provision in BT’s Licence and Duct and Pole Sharing.

The DG issued a Direction to BT, putting in place measures to stop anti-competitive practice by its Managed Network Services (MNS) business. BT was ordered to stop unfair subsidy of parts of MNS from its systems business and predatory pricing in the provision of value-added data services.

BT’s Board agreed to the removal of the RPI+2% constraint limiting any increase in BT’s exchange line rental charges and to the abolition of the obligation on other operators to pay access deficit contributions. The DG welcomed BT’s agreement to the licence modification, saying it would “reduce regulation and allow BT to serve their customers better”.

Two reports were published at the end of February as a result of benchmarking research commissioned by Oftel, comparing telecoms services received by UK businesses with services received by businesses in other countries – the research shows that generally UK businesses are getting a good deal compared to other countries.

March Oftel published a NERA report on the methodology used to calculate the long run incremental costs of a modern telecoms company.

The second phase of the consultation on Pricing of Telecommunications Services from 1997 was launched. The second consultative document developed ideas put out for public discussion in December 95. Five public hearings on the price control review were announced, scheduled to take place during April and May.

Oftel’s twelfth Annual Report was published, for 1995.

Oftel’s submission to the Office of Fair Trading regarding the pay-TV inquiry was released into the public domain.

April A publicity campaign was launched to publicise a code change for Reading. Parallel running began on 8 April, with the new (0118) code scheduled to take over on 1 January 98.

The first quarterly update of Market Information (issued November 95) was published. Figures were collected directly from operators, with over 30 fixed link and 4 cellular network operators taking part.

The first public hearing on the price control review took place in London, followed by a hearing in Glasgow.

The latest Comparable Performance Indicator reports for business and residential customers were published covering the period from October to December 1995.

Oftel announced proposals for discontinuing mandatory regulation of installation and maintenance of private switching systems.

May Oftel published its Management Plan for 1996/97.

Public hearings on the price control review were held in Cardiff, Belfast and Birmingham and the second phase of the consultation ended.

An interim statement of Oftel’s initial conclusions on the National Transcommunications Ltd (NTL) price control review was published.

Nynex Cablecomms Ltd became the first to offer number portability to new customers, a move welcomed by Oftel.

Fair Trading in Mobile Service Provision, a consultative document, was published, in which the Director General proposed lifting some of the regulatory contraints on the mobile telephone networks, in a move away from detailed regulation.

June On June 3rd, the Director General announced proposals for pricing and fair trading, to take effect after BT’s current price control period expires in July 1997, and a period of statutory consultation began. The main points of the proposals were: a retail price control of RPI–4.5% until 2001 for low to medium spending residential customers (expected to be the last retail price control); price controls on network charges to be determined early in 1997; and more effective rules on anti-competitive behaviour to deal with the greater pricing freedom.

A Statement was issued, and a period of statutory consultation began, on Oftel’s proposals for Promoting Competition in Services over Telecommunications Networks. The Statement focused on the development of a competitive telecommunications market for network operators and independent service providers, with a range of services at affordable prices for consumers.

The Department of Trade and Industry announced their decision to liberalise international facilities licensing in the UK, opening up the field to full competition and ending the BT/Mercury duopoly. As a result, Oftel will be examining ways in which new operators can share existing facilities.

Oftel supported action taken by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to improve the terms used in consumer contracts by the mobile phone industry through. At this time Oftel receives around 4,000 complaints and queries a year about mobile phones, many from customers who are unhappy about contract terms.

A report was published on the methodology used to derive the long run incremental costs of a modern telecoms network.

The Director General made amendments to Mercury Communication Limited’s licence, drafted in the early 1980’s when Mercury was BT’s sole competitor. A number of conditions now thought to be inappropriate were deleted, in line with Oftel’s commitment to withdraw from detailed regulation where market forces allow; and the 28 day advance notice obligation to publish changes in tariffs was modified so that changes need be published only on the day that they become effective.

Oftel established a Task Force to look at ways in which the telecoms industry can best play its part in helping schools, colleges and public access points to get affordable access to advanced telecoms services. The DG issued a Statement on Improving Access to the Information Society for Education and Public Access Points, looking at the evolving Information Society.

Oftel’s first Competition Bulletin was published, to make more visible the focus of Oftel’s work in relation to competition policy and casework. The bulletin, to be published quarterly, invites comment on specific cases of alleged anti-competitive behaviour and on more general fair trading issues.

International Accounting rates were published for traffic between the UK and OECD countries, correct as at April 1996.

The DG ordered an investigation into allegations that BT had misused customer information by telephoning ex-directory customers of cable companies as part of a ’Winback’ campaign to invite the customers to return to BT. Oftel asked BT to respond to a number of questions.

July Oftel submitted to BT the final combined proposals on Retail Price Control arrangements from August 1997 and the introduction into BT’s licence of a condition prohibiting anti-competitive behaviour.

A consumer guide about Oftel’s work in promoting the interests of customers was published.

A consultation document was published on the future pricing of international private leased circuits, following the DTI’s announcement on 6 June that the existing BT/Mercury duopoly in international facilities was to end.

Oftel announced that they could find no evidence to invalidate BT’s explanation that an encoding error was the cause of the complaints surrounding their Winback campaign. Later in July, a further investigation was ordered and an explanation requested from BT after Oftel received a complaint from the Consumers’ Association saying that BT’s customer-facing staff were supplying misleading and incorrect information about the services offered by cable operators. Oftel also requested details from the Cable Communications Association after the CCA informed Oftel that it had received details of further ex-directory cable customers receiving calls from BT staff during and beyond the period of the investigation whose conclusion Oftel announced on 22 July.

A Statement on Oftel’s policy on Equal Access and Indirect Access was published.

August BT accepted Oftel’s proposals on price control and fair trading, after three changes to the licence amendments regarding the fair trading condition proposed on 18 July.

Oftel published the results of a joint Oftel/ICSTIS market research survey into premium rate services. One clear message which emerged from the survey was a preference for all premium rate services to be moved onto the distinctive 09 range of numbers. This idea was amongst those put forward in a consultative document published on 5 August setting out Oftel’s proposals for a new National Numbering Scheme. London, Cardiff, Belfast, Southampton and Portsmouth were confirmed as areas which would need a new code within the next five years. The document put forward proposals for utilising the 8 billion new numbers freed by PhONE day in 1995 and introduced the idea of a new “Corporate Numbering Range” for large businesses. The consultation period runs until October 18.

September Following evidence submitted by the Consumers’ Association, the Director General issued an Order under section 16 of the Telecommunications Act, requiring BT to tighten controls over the way in which its staff talk to customers about its competitors.

Kingston Communications’ call metering systems were approved by the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications.

Oftel announced the end of the “designated maintainer” regime – Oftel will no longer formally approve those who provide maintenance services, or register installers and maintainers to provide connection services, and customers whose telephone systems include private switching systems are no longer required to enter into a contract with an Oftel approved maintainer for their system maintenance.

BT offered to convert, free of charge, hardwired telephone connections to modern plug and sockets. Oftel welcomed the move which gives customers the freedom to choose whether to buy a telephone and who to buy it from.

Don Cruickshank announced the new price control on the prices charged by National Transcommunications Limited (NTL) for broadcast transmission services to the ITV companies, Channel 4 and S4C: the total annual price charged by NTL will be reduced by 4 million with effect from January 1997, and following that NTL will be required to reduce prices by RPI–4% each year.

A provisional Order issued to BT on 26 June was confirmed by the Director General. The Order was made when BT proposed promoting Caller Display Equipment in association with its Caller Display Service promotion, following complaints to Oftel about the short time BT had allowed for competitors in the telephone equipment market to prepare stock and promotional material.

Oftel’s Director General told BT to remove the discriminatory elements from a new pricing structure for ISDN2 service which BT had announced in August. He said that BT’s response was “extremely disappointing”. In a move away from detailed regulation, Oftel had encouraged BT to develop imaginative solutions to promote greater take-up of ISDN whilst ensuring that pricing was not anti-competitive. The Director General said in August that he would assess BT’s proposed prices, and had asked for comments from customers and other industry players.

October Oftel announced amendments to BT’s licence to incorporate the new Fair Trading Condition which will come into effect on 31 December 1996 alongside new Retail Price Controls for the next price control period, which begins on 1 August 1997.

Oftel published a consultative document on competition issues in terrestrial broadcast transmission. The consultation period ran until 8 November with a further two weeks until 22 November for comments on initial submissions.

A consultative document was also published on the role of consumer representation in telecoms, seeking views from consumer organisations, individual customers and others on how the interests of telecoms consumers are represented.The consultation period will run until 14 February.

Oftel published comparable performance indicators for both business and residential customers for the period January–June 1996 to help customers choose between telecoms companies.

A provisional order was issued by the Director General of Oftel to BT over BT’s joint promotion with BskyB. The Director General considered that the terms of the promotion was discriminatory and therefore breached BT’s licence.

Don Cruickshank called for strategic cooperation in the cable industry at the European Cable Communications conference in London.

Cable & Wireless announced a merger of Mercury Communications with Bell Cablemedia, Nynex and Videotron to create a new company C&W Communications.

A Statement was issued on the future regulation of premium rate services.

Don Cruickshank, Director General of Telecommunications, began an investigation into new complaints that BT does not behave fairly when talking about its competitors.

November BT announced its plans to merge with American telecoms company MCI, in which BT already holds a 20% share.

BT announced its plans to merge with American telecoms company MCI, in which BT already holds a 20% share.

CableTel announced the launch of a new pricing package for schools to enable them to get on-line access to the Internet and other services.

Oftel began consultation on Guidelines for new International Facilities Licences.

The Government published proposals for the regulation of conditional access for digital television services. These proposals were made under the European Communities Act and The Telecommunications Act in implementation of the EU Advanced Television Standards Directive 95/47/EC.

December Oftel issued a determination that BT should modify its payphones so that Mercury customers could indirectly access Mercury from BT payphones by dialling ‘133’.

Oftel published proposals for Network Charges from 1997. The proposals aim to put in place new arrangements which would give BT more pricing freedom within a broad framework of rules.

Oftel began a period of consultation on modifications to Mercury’s licence, designed to bring the licence into line with licences issued to other non-dominant public telecommunications operators.

As part of an industry group, Oftel, along with consumer representatives, network operators and the Data Protection registrar published a code of practice for network operators on calling line identification (CLI) and other related services.

A new Advisory Body on Fair Trading in Telecommunications was established.

Oftel began a period of consultation on the practical regulation of conditional access services.

The Department of Trade and Industry issued 44 new International Facilities Licences.

The High Court confirmed that the Fair Trading Condition, which was introduced into BT’s licence on 1 October 1996, was lawful.

Back to Contents


1997

January The Cable industry announced plans to offer special deals for schools to connect to the internet.

Oftel determined BT’s costs and charges for geographic number portability up to March 1997.

The final phase of the UK National Numbering Scheme was announced by Oftel. The plans included changes in area codes for London, Northern Ireland, Cardiff, and Portsmouth and Southampton to be introduced in the year 2000. Also covered were non-geographic services such as Mobile, Paging and Personal numbers and special services such as freephone and local rate services.

February Oftel published a package of measures designed to ensure that everyone can gain affordable access to the telephone, including a new BT “Lifeline” scheme to be introduced later in the year which would give telephone access for emergency and incoming calls only.

Oftel’s Education Task Force published a report calling on the telecoms industry to offer lower prices to schools, following the Cable industry’s plans announced in January.

March Oftel ordered BT to drop its “Winback” marketing campaign on the grounds that BT had discriminated unduly in targeting other operator’s customers and that BT had failed to obtain Oftel’s consent to the below-cost element of the offer.

WHICH magazine published a comparision of different telecoms companies tariffs for residential customers.

Oftel’s thirteenth Annual Report was published, for 1996.

Oftel announced plans to put the new Fair Trading Condition into existing telecommunications licenses.

Final Guidelines on the regulation of Conditional access services were published by Oftel.

April Oftel launched proposals for full telephone number portability between operators.

Comparable Performance Indicators for July to December 1996 were published by PE International, not Oftel, for the first time (tel: 01784 434411 for copies).

The second issue of the Numbering Conventions were published. These reflected the plans for numbering announced by Oftel in January.

May The formation of British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB) – a joint venture between BT (32.5%), BSkyB (32.5%), Midland Bank (20%) and Matsushita (15%) – was announced. BIB aims to spearhead the drive into interactive digital satellite services via set-top boxes.

Oftel published the next stage of consultation on the future regulation of BT's network charges. The document suggested a range of 6–12% for the X in the RPI–X formula controlling the baskets of non-competitive and bottleneck services. The controls would run from 1 October 1997 to 30 September 2001. Oftel also published two reports – An Assessment of the 1995/96 Top-Down Model by economic consultants NERA and Evaluation of the Efficiency of BT's Network Operations by Strategic Policy Research Inc and Weber Temin & Co. Results from both these reports were used in the consultative document.

On 15 May Oftel published the final charges payable to BT by other operators for standard interconnect services for 1995/96. The charges, determined by Oftel, reflected a 20% reduction in BT's costs in the year from 1994/95 to 1995/96.

Oftel published its Management Plan for 1997/98 and beyond. This set out Oftel's aims and forward work programme for the next 18 months.

BT sent Oftel a proposed new deal for providing schools with affordable access to the information superhighway. Oftel plans to publish a consultative document on this proposal in early July having discussed the details with BT and Oftel's Education Task Force. In the meantime Oftel rejected an interim proposal from BT because it would, in effect, have excluded all Internet service providers other than BT.

June The Independent Television Commission (ITC) announced that British Digital Broadcasting (BDB – consisting of Carlton and Granada but no longer BSkyB) had been awarded the digital terrestrial television licences. DTN was the losing bidder. Oftel published the submission it made in early May but had agreed not to publish until the result was known. The Director General commented: "the participation of BSkyB either as a consortium member or as a long term supplier of certain pay TV services raised substantial concerns in the pay TV network and conditional access markets."

The Director General made a Final Order banning BT from making re-connection offers unfairly targeted at other companies' customers, in particular those of cable franchises. This followed the provisional order which stopped BT's "Winback" campaign in March.

The Department of Trade and Industry announced a government review of utility regulation.

July  Oftel have taken action under the new Fair Trading Condition in BT's licence to allow development in the chargecard market.  Under the current tariff structure BT are running their chargecard business at a loss.

Oftel ordered BT to offer its personal numbering service OneNumber, competitively.  The Director general said it was in breach of its licence and gave notice of intent to issue an order.

Oftel publishes propsals for helping schools afford the Internet. Access to the Internet for Schools

Oftel and DTI jointly consult on conditional access Extending the Regulatory Regime for Conditional Access Services

Oftel announced measures to ensure BT met UK licence obligations as it becomes an international comapny, details are available from the document Domestic Obligations in a Global Market

August a determination was issued confirming that Mercury would no longer be considered a Well-Established Operator on certain international rates and regulatory restraints would be lifted.

Plans were announced for the ‘05’ range of numbers to be used for corporate numbering. The choice to use the 05 number range would be voluntary and could benefit businesses, as consumers will be able to identify the business by its unique code. More details are available in the accompanying document Numbering for Corporate Networks.

The Director General decided to give BT notice of his intention to issue an order requiring BT to separate Call Minder's mailbox facility from the network inputs, and offer them on the same terms and conditions to its competitiors. This is another step to encourage competition.

In September in response to Oftel's rules designed to bring lower call prices for low-spending customers BT announced they were to cut evening national call rates by 10%.

The Director General gave his response to the Government’s Review of Utility Regulation.  The main goals of the resonse are to equip regulation to deal with rapid changes in the communications market and respond even better to consumer needs. More details can be found in the full response Review of Utility Regulation: Submission by the Director General of Telecommunications.
 
On 23 September Don Cruickshank Director General of telecommunications announced he would not be seeking to extend his appointment beyond his present term of office, which ends on 31 March 1998.

Oftel confirmed that two recent proposals to take action to encourage competition with BT’s Call minder and OneNumber services by making provisional orders against BT. BT is currently running the services anti-competitively and in breach of its licence.
  On 25 September, proposals were set out to give people more choice of Directory Services while safeguarding the privacy of customers’ phone numbers. Oftel worked closely with the Office of the Data Protection Registrar to draw up a proposed code of practice for the use of customer information.  More details can be found in the documents : Provision of Directory Information Services and Products – Consultative Document (9/97) Provision of Directory Information Services and Products – Annexes (9/97)
Your Directory Information – Proposals to Give Consumers More Choices – Consumer Guide (9/97)

Oftel issued BT with a final order to ensure fair competition in the chargecard market.  The order has been taken to stop BT subsidising its chargecards from other areas of its business.

Oftel published its response to draft legislation by the Government for cracking down on anti-competitive behaviour.  The moves come to strenghten competition law in the UK, further details are available from the document A Prohibition Approach to Anti-Competitive Agreements and Abuse of Dominant Position.

October – Mobile number portability should be available to consumers by all the mobile operators by the end of 1998.

A new agreement to put schools on the information superhighway was announced on 7 October. It means that every school in the UK can have internet access with predictable bills, at low levels for all-day usage, more details are available in Oftel's statement, Access to the Superhighway for schools.

The proposed approach to the pricing issues of conditional access services for digital television was proposed today in the consultation document, Pricing of Conditional Access Services for Digital Television .

Oftel called on telecom operators to share telegraph poles and cabling ducts, more details are available from the statement, Duct and Pole Sharing .

In November Oftel named companies who are still failing to provide customers with compariable information about their quality of service.

Speaking at the Telecoms Managers Association (TMA) conference, the Director General announced the publication of Buying telecoms services – could your business do better? .  He said that big opportunities exist for UK businesses to get a better deal for telecoms.

Oftel announced an investigation into BT's plans to raise the price it charges other telecoms operators for the use of BT’s payphones.

Under the terms of two new European Union Directives the Director General of Telecommunications set out a framework for assessing significant market power in the UK Telecoms industry. For more information see Identification of Significant Market Power for the Purposes of the Interconnection Directive (as amended) – Consultative Document (11/97) and the Identification of Significant Market Power for the Purposes of the Leased Lines Directive (as amended)

More than 350 telecoms companies now have the fair trading condition incorporated into their licences.

December – Speaking at the FT World Telecommunications Conference in London, the Director General of Telecommunications said that new regulators could learn key lessons from the UK success story.

Oftel announced that wider consultation on corporate numbers was necessary in response to operators who expressed a need to carry out more research before they entered the market.

Following pressure from Oftel, telephone companies will be offering Outgoing Calls Barred (OCB) service instead of disconnection. This lets customers pay off their debts over an agreed time while still having access to a phone. Access to 999 and 150 services will still be available.

A draft final order was issued against BT in relation to their call minder service. The draft final order will prevent BT from running the service in a way that disadvantages competitors.

Oftel asked telecommunication companies for their views on planned changes to the telecommunications licences, more details are available from the document A Review of Telecommunication Licence Fees in the UK

Oftel responded to the Government's consultation on plans for a National Grid saying that it must deliver wide choice of services to schools.  Details are available from the document Connecting the Learning Society: Oftel’s response to the Government’s consultation paper on the National Grid for Learning .
 
Oftel has secured an agreement with major telephone operators to provide number portability.  Until recently only BT had an obligation to provide number portability.  New agreements announced mean that phone users will be able to switch telephone companies and keep the same number.

In a step to further improve accountability the Director General of telecommunications announced a public consultation meeting to discuss Oftel's draft work programme for 1998/99. The meeting will be held on February 10 1998 at the Great Hall, Kings College.

Back to Contents


1998

January - On 28th Oftel announced plans to help Coventry meet the challenges of the new millennium.  This means that from the year 2000 Coventry’s code will move from 01203 to 024.  This new code offers a ten fold increase in the supply of numbers in the Coventry area.

Oftel published Beyond The Telephone, The Television and The PC – II – Oftel’s first submission to the Culture Media and Sports Select Committee Inquiry into audio-visual communications and the regulation of broadcasting.

February, Oftel sets out guidelines on how it will go about responding to competition issues in the UK telecoms market.  The document can be found on the web site : Effective Competition Review – Statement.
 
The statement Identification of Significant Market Power for the purposes of the Interconnection Directive was issued, which explained the methodology Oftel used in determining that four operators (BT, Kingston, Cellnet and Vodafone)  have SMP.

Oftel issued a statement Improving Accountability: further steps.  This is a series of new measures aimed at ensuring Oftel is even more accountable and transparent in the future.

New rules were issued on charges to broadcasters for access to digital set top boxes.  More details can be found in the document Conditional Access Charges for Digital Television

Cellnet were told to stop unfair pricing towards some of its service providers.  A provisional order was made against the mobile phone company.

Launched on the 16th was a consultation on payphone provision, details of the consultation can be found in the document A Better Deal for Payphone Users.

On the 19th, a new initiative as part of Oftel’s efforts to promote telecoms for all was launched.  The consultative document Telecommunications Services for people with disabilities is trying to place clear duties on operators to provide facilities and services for disabled customers which are available as easily as for any other user.

March – A major review was launched to ensure that Hull gains the full benefits of the information age.  The consultative document Delivering the benefits of the information age to customers in Hull .  Following on from the document was a public meeting held in Hull on 25 March so a wide range of views can be heard.

The Director General of Telecommunications announced that he has asked the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) to investigate the price of calling mobile phones, for more information see the document Prices of calls to mobile phones.

Don Cruickshank speaks at the Economist “Enhancing Profitability within Telecoms”  pre-conference dinner, on the reform of regulation of the electronic communications industry.
 
Don Cruickshank gave Oftel’s second submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Select committee, Beyond the telephone, the television and the PC – Regulation of the electronic communications industry . He called for the industry to be regualted by two new bodies, An Electronics Communications Commission, responsible for competition, economic and social policy issues, including consumer protection and an Elecronic Communciations Standards Authority, responsible for content regulation including public service broadcasting.

On the 23rd the DTI announced the appointment of David Edmonds as the new Director General of Telecommunications, he will take over from Don Cruickshank on 1 April 1998.

The Governemt published its Green paper on the Review of Utility Regulation. Oftel response to the European Commission on the Green paper on the convergence of the telecommunications, media and information technolocy sectors, and the implications for regulation (COM(97)623)

Oftel’s Draft Work programme for 1998/99 and beyond was published.  This was the first year that Oftel consulted publically before drawing up the work programme.

Oftel published its annual report for the year to 31 December 1997.

On 31st the Director General announced he intends to stop the British Fax Directory calling whole ranges of phone numbers automatically just to identify a fax machine which is then sent junk faxes.

The statement Towards Better Telecoms for Customers, 1997/8 progress report was issued showing that telecoms customers are getting better deals and more choice.

Don Cruickshank warned against a “Euro Regulator” for communications industry Oftel response to the European Commission on the Green paper on the convergence of the telecommunications, media and information technolocy sectors, and the implications for regulation (COM(97)623)

AprilDavid Edmonds starts work as Director General of Telecommunications

Following consultation, changes have been made to One2One and Orange's licences.  The alteration means that they will no longer have to provide airtime to mobile service providers.  For more information see the statement Modification of the Licences of Orange and Mercury Personal Communications (MPCL)

A set of draft regulations were introduced on new consumer protection measures.  More details can be found in Identification of operators with Significant Market power for the Application of Detailed Rules under Purposes of the EC Voice Telephony and Universal Service Directive

After long public consultation, guidelines and licence changes are being made as part of Europe-wide legislation, to ensure fair competition in service provision.  More details can be found in Interconnection & Interoperability of Services over Telephony Networks

May – Joint ITC/OFT/Oftel have set up machinery to handle issues which cross the traditional boundaries between regulators in the field of communications.

Oftel published its main submission to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) inquiry on the price of calling mobile phones.  Details can be found in the submission.

The licence condition in the Telecommunications Services Licence (TSL) is to be strenghtened so as the clamp down on all companies who send out junk faxes or who contract out their faxing to third parties.

June – The Director General of telecommunications has warned a company to stop making telesales calls to customers who don't want to receive them.  The company even after being asked by the complainant to stop making calls could give no assurances that they would not continue making calls.

July – On the 13 of this month, the National Code and Number Change launched their publicity campaign ‘the big number’ – for more information on the changes contact the national helpline on
0800 22 4 2000.

Oftel agreed an extension for the MMC inquiry into the price of calling mobile phones, the three month extension means that a statement from the MMC will be available from December 1998.

As part of the national numbering scheme of January 1997 all freephone numbers need to move ot the 080 range.  Oftel has issued a consultation document Freephone numbers – options for the future to discuss the most effective option of bringing all freephone numbers to this range.

Oftel will be collecting and publishing information every quarter on the volume of calls between the UK and abroad and the prices agreed between operators for carrying them.  The development of the international calls market will be strictly watched to safeguard competition as the effects of liberalisation takes place.

The consulation document Carrier Pre-Selection in the UK was published this month.  It means that BT and Kingston customers can be connected to the telephone network by one operator, but can send their calls via a different operator if they want to.

Following a warning in June, the company James E James was issued with a final enforcement order forbidding the company to call The Greek Taverna who complained of nuisance telesales calls.

The results of the review of Kingston Communications' licence was announced on the 31 July.  The review will extend choice for the people and businesses of Hull.  The statement Review of the Telecommunications Act Licence of Kingston Communications (Hull) plc and Kingston upon Hull City Council gives more details.
 
August – The Director General of telecommunications has called on telephone companies to safeguard consumers against misleading Premium Rate Services. In an open letter to the Chief Executives of all UK telecoms companies telephone companies were asked to put consumers first when agreeing contracts for premium rate services.

Oftel announced that the Payphone access charge(PAC), charged by BT, will be reduced. Oftel's investigations found that BT is passing too many of its operating costs as part of the PAC.
The Determination of the Payphone Access Charge and Determination of competitiveness of access to indirect access operator services from payphones where also published.

Oftel backs The Telecoms Operator Forum, backed by 20 telecoms companies to beat year 2000 bug and ensure that the phone networks will not suffer when the date changes to 1 January 2000.

September – Oftel welcomed commitments by BT to ensure telesales staff marketing BT Click Internet services cannot access customer calling information. Oftel launched an investigation following complaints that some BT sales staff were using customer information to identify regular Internet users, which appears to contravene the Fair Trade Licence condition in BT's Licence.

Oftel's statement Provision of Directory Information Services and Products was published this month. Which announces a package of new measures to improve directory services for consumers following a major review, more companies will be able to offer directory services so that consumers will be able to have more choice and possibly cheaper services, the review could also lead to less people opting to go ex-directory. A Consumer Guide also accompanies the statement.

Oftel published a statement Telecommunications Services for People with Disabilities which unveiled a series of proposals aimed at giving people with disabilities easier access to the telecoms network The statement marks the end of the detailed consultation exercise and outlines a series of measures which telecoms companies should out in place to ensure that people with disabilities have proper access to telecommunications services. A Consumer guide accompanies the statement.

October – Ionica plc was put into the hands of Administrators, there will be no interruption in service to Ionica's customers. The administrators will transfer customers to an alternative supplier or suppliers if a buyer is no found.

Oftel announces its views on BT's bundled discounts scheme for business in a statement Tariffing issues: Bundling of inbound and outbound services. The plan by BT to offer discounts to business customers appears to be acceptable within the Fair Trading Rules.

November – Oftel announced full details of the restructured Oftel this month. The restructuring created a more flexible and better focused structure so that Oftel can respond quicker to new challenges in the fast-moving communications world. The 10 branch structure will be replaced by streamlined Operations system built around two operational directorates – Regulatory Policy and Compliance backed by a Business support Directorate.

Oftel published a consultation document Proposals for Publishing Information on Complaints Received by Oftel, which sets out plans to publish information on the complaints it receives from customers about telecoms companies and services. So that customers will be better informed when choosing phone suppliers and encourage telecoms companies to solve the root cause of the complaints.

December - Oftel launches a consultation on how to ensure consumers get access to information age services, the document Access to bandwidth - bringing higher bandwidth services to the consumer, examines what steps are needed to ensure that families and small businesses are provided with innovative services such as high-speed internet access and video on demand.

The Director General, David Edmonds, announced he intends to implement fully the recommendations made by the MMC following an investigation, made at the request of Oftel, into the price of calls made to mobile phones.  As a result, the costs of calls from a BT line to Vodafone or Cellnet mobile phones will fall by 25%.

An agreement was reached between BT and the administrators of Ionica to ensure continuity of service to Ionica customers.

Oftel has made an interim statement on its review of its investigation into Cable and Wireless Communications' 999 operator service.  Oftel has required CWC to provide a detailed timetable for the overhaul of its database that 999 operators use.  CWC say that this will be completed by March 1999.

From 1 January 1999, mobile phone customers will be able to keep their old number when switching networks.  The UK is the first country in the world to give customers this ability.


 1999

January - An Oftel investigation has found that developing competition is reducing BT's prices for leased lines to business customers on the higher bandwidth circuits.  The document National Leased lines in the UK - summary of Oftel's investigation, sets out the full recommendations.

Oftel along with the Office of Fair Trading issued draft guidelines on how it intends to enforce new laws on fair competition.  The draft guidelines on the application of the Competition Act in the telecommunications sector will assist both the telecoms industry and its consumers to assess for themselves the circumstances in which particular types of behaviour are likely to be prohibited.

In a speech given by Anne Lambert, Director of Operations at Oftel, it was announced that the telecoms industry is in good shape for the new millennium.

February - Oftel published the results of its own 'snapshot' survey of successfully connected calls made on the four mobile phone networks in different parts of the country.

Oftel published its assessment of the current state of competition in the mobile phone market.

Oftel published its draft work programme for 1999/2000.

The Trade and Industry Select Committee's enquiry into numbering provided it's recommendations.

Oftel required BT to overhaul its contingency procedures across the whole of the UK following BT's failure to keep Gloucester's phones working during a major power cut.

Oftel published a statement setting out how carrier pre-selection will be implemented in the UK for customers of BT and Kingston Communications, and why the UK had sought a deferment from the European Commission of the introduction of CPS in the UK.

March - Oftel confirmed changes to the telephone numbering system, coming into force from April 2000.

Oftel appointed consultants, WS Atkins Science and Technology, to independently assess and verify how the UK's telecommunication networks measure their readiness for year 2000.

The four mobile network companies agreed to provide for publication comparable quality of service data showing the percentage of successful calls for their networks.

Oftel published proposals to resolve the current dispute between BT and other telephone companies over shares of revenue from telephone calls to the Internet.

Elaine Axby was appointed Oftel's Policy Project Director for the mobile phone market.

Daivd Edmonds, Director General of Telecommunications, clarified the types of services available from payphones.

Licence modifications were made as a result of the recommendations of the Monopolies and Mergers Commisson following its investigation, made at Oftel's request, into the price of calls to mobile phones.

Oftel orders BT to cut prices of calls to pagers.

April - Oftel publishes consultation on Calling Line Identification (CLI) numbers.

Oftel confirmed that CWC met the deadline it imposed on the company to solve problems with its 999 operator service.

Jean Ashcroft , Director of Public Policy and Information at Arthritis Care was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Telecommunications for Disabled and Elderly People.

Oftel announced that according to the results of the latest assessment 90% of the UK's public telecom networks are Y2K complaint.

Phone companies published two editions of free reports today giving customers valuable information about the quality of service being provided by competing operators.

Oftel published it's annual report for the year ending December 1998.

Oftel appointed the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to set up and run the new opt-out schemes for unsolicited direct marketing by phone and fax.

May - Oftel's Small Business Task Force published the first edition of a new information bulletin as part of its campaign to improve information for small businesses on purchasing telecoms services.

Oftel published its proposals to give new entrant third generation mobile phone operators the right to roam on at least one of the existing second generation mobile phone networks.

Oftel published their Management Plan for 1999/00.

Oftel published the results of two consultations held last year. Developing Number Administration and Freephone Numbers: Options for the Future.

Oftel's published a consultation document proposing a rollover of existing retail price and network charge controls in the event that Oftel and BT are unable to agree on future pricing arrangements.

June - Oftel proposed to modify the licence granted to Concert Communications Company. This includes the joint venture between BT and AT&T.

Oftel reminded people that changeover day April 2000 is the landmark date for when they must dial the new national code and telephone numbers.

David Edmonds announced that BT's Talking Pages' "new call completion service" appears to be anti-competitive and must be withdrawn.

David Edmonds issued a Provisional Order requiring BT to comply with Oftel's request for financial information relating to its maritime and aeronautical services.

Oftel launched a consultation on how a new form of mobile service provider could enter the mobile phone market.

New rules enforced to ensure that all companies that offer premium rate services must always use the new 090 access code in their advertising.

July - Oftel set out a number of measures to promote greater competition in the mobile market that could bring cheaper calls and new services to consumers.

Oftel announced that a number of operators have given their backing to a scheme to allow public institutions cheaper access to the Information Superhighway.

Vodafone agreed, following Oftel intervention, to improve the terms available to service providers to enable them to compete and provide pre-pay mobile phone services to their customers.

David Edmonds announced the early introduction of high speed data services to homes and businesses across the UK.

Oftel begins its review of the price controls imposed on BT to see if controls will still be necessary in tomorrow's telecoms market.

The National Infrastructure Forum published their work showing that the telecoms industry is well prepared to deliver business as usual into the next millennium.

Oftel launched a consultation on whether there should be changes to the current Universal Service Obligation on BT and Kingston Communications in Hull.

Oftel announced the results of its consultation on a new licence condition for the four existing mobile phone network operators to allow roaming by a new third generation mobile phone operator.

August - BT Cellnet has agreed , at Oftel's insistence, to let independent service providers market their own pre-pay packages to customers on its network.

Oftel published new guidance to companies covering their responsibilities over recording phone calls for business purposes.

Tough new powers were proposed by Oftel to help premium rate services watchdog ICSTIS stamp out scams by unscrupulous traders.

Oftel issued a provisional order against BT following continuing concerns over BT's handling of its Calls & Access product.

Oftel invited the UK's telephone customers to discuss telephone price controls at public hearings to be held in Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff and Birmingham in September and October.

September - After Oftel intervention Cable & Wireless Communications agreed to delay tariff changes that were due to come into effect on 1 September 1999.

Oftel announced proposals to publish data on complaints received from telecoms customers.

Oftel survey on Advanced Telecoms services showed that consumer demand shows no sign of running out of steam.

David Edmonds welcomed the start of a national TV advertising campaign to promote the forthcoming national code and telephone number changes.

Oftel unveiled an expanded and improved consumer advice section on its website.

Oftel proposed an independent arbitrator to resolve consumers' disputes.

Oftel set out proposals for monitoring the prices of calls from mobile phones in order to assess the effectiveness of competition in the mobile phone market.

October

Oftel  held a public hearing in Birmingham to talk to consumers about telephone price controls.

Mobile network phone companies published initial surveys of successful test calls made on each of their networks.

Vodafone and BTCellnet agreed to a proposed licence modification which will allow roaming on their networks by new third generation mobile phone operators.

Action 2000’s National Infrastructure Forum reported that the UK’s key infrastructure is ready to deliver business as usual into the year 2000.

Oftel published a statement on whether there is a need for regulatory action to support the introduction of Mobile Virtual Network Operators into the UK mobile phone market.

Oftel  and the DTI issued a joint news release outlining proposals, which come into effect on 1 January 2000, that people and businesses will have the right to keep their telephone numbers when they change telephone companies.

David Edmonds, issued a further Provisional Order against BT following continued serious problems in some elements of the provision of its Call and Access product to customers and service providers.

Bob Twitchin was appointed Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Telecommunications for Disabled and Elderly people (DIEL).

David Edmonds demanded to see the plans the four mobile network operators have in place for handling the expected Christmas rush for new pre-pay mobile phones.


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