Cable and Wireless’ recent purchase of Bulldog means that they acquire four years of local loop unbundling experience, 38 ready-equipped exchanges and a number of well-marketed, innovative products. All for the bargain price of UK£18.6 million (€28 million) – though Bulldog’s net assets at the end of 2003 were only UK£1.6 million (€2.4 million). This puts C&W in a position to offer unique services, and not just resell products from BT Wholesale.
Bulldog have long been critical of BT, and have said some fairly dramatic things over the last few months. My own personal favourite quote was from Richard Greco, when talking to The Register in 2001: “Oftel needs to force BT to move. And if BT doesn’t, then Oftel should point the gun – and pull the trigger.” However, he was quite gushing about BT when agreed to carry their SDSL products some months later: “It really is a powerful combination.”
Bulldog’s frustration at BT stemmed from the glacial pace that the communications giant was unbundling the local loop. Bulldog have installed their own equipment into 38 exchanges, a figure that C&W now want to raise to 200. They will doubtless use this position to tempt more ISPs to jump from bitstream services to LLU – as C&W chief Francesco Caio said in a statement: “The acquisition of Bulldog will accelerate our ability to deliver directly connected DSL solutions for our existing and potential customers with an experienced team specialising in LLU services.”
Bear in mind that it’s not just BT that is causing frustration with LLU – across Europe the entire process has been slow and as yet only a small percentage of lines have been unbundled.
BT has already demonstrated that it’s worried about complaints about its LLU conduct and progress by making huge cuts to wholesale prices and promising faster progress. With C&W breathing down its neck even more, expect those exchanges to be unbundled faster than ever before.