Oftel has published its proposed pricing structure for unbundling the local loops.

Independent telcos and ISPs contacted by Macworld have privately expressed their reservations at the proposed pricing structure, which they claim to be "higher than originally discussed".

Oftel has proposed to impose a £118 annual rental for a loop, with a £95 connection charge. The charge for an Internal tie cable connecting 100 loops to an operator's equipment is £21 per year with a £1,433 connection charge.

Premium space Operators have stated that space seems to be at a premium in BT exchanges, with one mentioning that property situated beside BT exchanges is likely to become most sought after by independent operators and ISPs.

The unbundling of the local loop is scheduled to come into effect from January, 2001. Bob McNinch of Direct Connection told Macworld prior to Oftel's announcement that he "thought it unlikely BT would meet the deadline".

Once unbundling does come into force, it is widely expected that connection charges levied for ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines) and other broadband data services will begin to drop. This will be in response to a more competitive market, in which independent telcos and ISPs will be able to compete with BT on a more level playing field, able to benefit from the opportunity to install their own equipment in BT exchanges.

While Oftel hasn't yet responded to criticism of its proposed pricing structure, David Edmonds, director general of telecommunications, said: "I am confident that these charges are at a level that will encourage competition in the provision of broadband services. They will allow other operators to provide new, higher bandwidth services to consumers `at competitive prices."

He also said: "Oftel has required BT to provide a new telephone line to a customer on behalf of an operator if there is not an existing line available. This is an additional benefit not required in most other European countries."

Edmonds is confident that BT will keep the schedule Oftel has required of it, he said: "The first exchanges equipped for BT’s competitors to offer new high speed services will be available in the New Year."