Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications

FRIACO Single Tandem is finalised (20 February 2001)

OFTEL has issued its final determination on FRIACO Single Tandem.

What it means is that a fourth method of giving an ISP and its customers access to the unmetered Internet, after previous flavours of FRIACO, BT SurfTime and BT SurfPort 24 is mandated; FRIACO Single Tandem offers a port at £507pa, each port ideally supporting between 6 and 10 users.

You can work out the sums from there; in practice there will be little cost difference between unmetered services based on FRIACO Single Tandem and existing unmetered wholesale products. The crucial point is that FRIACO Single Tandem is intended to open up sustainable unmetered access to many more ISPs than at present, being a relatively open standard compared to SurfTime and SurfPort 24 - both controlled by BT - and less onerous in infrastructure terms than previous versions of FRIACO.

We note that the phasing in of the FRIACO Single Tandem rollout is much less constrained than that in the draft determination, possibly because BT has tacitly accepted the experts' report which states that, in effect, it has to change the configuration of its network to support FRIACO Single Tandem.

The proliferation of wholesale unmetered products is horribly confusing - and another proprietary product, BT WebPort, is on the way - so we plan to write a final review article which will explain and differentiate them in plain language.

At the next OFTEL Internet Forum on 23 March ('Internet consumers - who are they and how do we talk to them?') OFTEL should hear at first hand whether or not the various wholesale unmetered products will allow small ISPs to flourish and, if they are considered not to, what further action is needed.

With fair access to unmetered wholesale products there is great scope for freenets and other community-based Internet services: these have never really got going in this country before now.

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