Telco watchdog Oftel today unveiled its plans to increase competition by demanding BT opens up broadband services.

Operators wishing to provide DSL (digital subscriber line) currently have to buy either BT's wholesale broadband products at BT's prices, or install their own DSL equipment in BT's local exchanges.

The ruling, which was prompted by a request from providers Thus
and Energis, forces BT to offer operators a broadband connection to its fixed line network, which basically means customers will receive one phone bill instead of two. Currently they receive one from BT for line rental and one from their service provider for the package they receive.

Operators have welcomed the announcement.

"Our customers have often complained about receiving two bills," said a spokesman at Centrica, which owns service provider OneTel. "This will help to simplify the whole billing system."

BT will also have to provide a much wider choice of wholesale and retail broadband services in competition with its own products.

"This will enable operators to offer consumers a wider range of products," said David Edmonds director of telecommunications at Oftel. "Prices for these new services will be set by Oftel at a level that encourages competition between different providers of broadband services."