BT has yet again delayed the availability of high-speed asymmetricaldigital subscriber line (ADSL) technology for broadband multimedia access.
The latest setback delays the roll-out by at least another three months, despite expectations that a commercial service would be available from BT this month. Users and suppliers believe the introduction of 8Mbps ADSL is crucial for the uptake of e-commerce in the UK.
Telecommunications Man-agers' Association (TMA) chairman John Wright told Computer Weekly, "Any delay is entirely regrettable, the country and the business community has been waiting for this for a long time."
Oftel was set to make a decision on BT's request this week, but the delay - until 29 June - is expected after BT found backing from some of its close partners involved in the initial ADSL roll-out.
The roll-out comprises 400 UK telephone exchanges covering the big cities. BT has told Oftel its partners want more time to complete customer trials.
Initially, ADSL will be sold by BT through a wholesale system where ISPs and other telcos will buy access to the local loop to offer ADSL to their customers.
However, BT's prices have already been condemned for being too expensive by user groups and rival companies who want direct access to the local loop to offer their own cheaper packages.
Local loop unbundling is expected to take place by July 2001, with Government pressure to bring the date forward.
A delay to ADSL's introduction is bound to have a knock-on effect on unbundling, as ADSL was the service most BT rivals wanted to offer.
Free access ISP Freeserve described the delay as a "disgrace", and analyst GartnerGroup accused BT of creating more time to grow BT Highway.