Cable and Wireless Buy Bulldog – What’s the Threat to BT?

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.

About Bulldog

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?