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Commiunications and Information Industries  


Information Age
Information Society

Electronic Commerce
Electronic Commerce

Telecoms Regulation

Telecoms Licences

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1981:       British Telecom Act separates BT from the Post Office.

1982:        British Approvals Board for Telecommunications (BABT) established.

Mercury Communications issued with a licence to build and operate a second fixed link network in competition with BT.

First licences for providers of Value Added Network Services (VANs) issued.

1983:      A Government policy statement established BT/Mercury duopoly on providing fixed link infrastructure until November 1990.

The first broadband cable franchises issued.

1984: 51% of the Government's shares in BT sold: BT became a plc.

The 1984 Telecommunications Act establishes Oftel.

1985: Licences issued to Cellnet and Racal-Vodafone to run competing cellular networks. First cable licences issued. 

1986: First licences were awarded for private mobile radio network operators and radio paging operators.

1987: The provision of Value Added Data Services (VADs), is liberalised, together with the resale of international leased capacity for this purpose.

1989: Domestic simple resale of voice services authorised.

1991: Duopoly review and publication of White Paper Competition and Choice: Telecommunications Policy for the 1990s.

Mercury PCN, Unitel and Microtel licensed to operate PCN services.

1993: First post-duopoly PTO (Public Telecommunications Operator) licence granted, to Ionica, for a national radio-based system to compete with BT in the local loop. Followed by six more new national and regional PTO licences granted to: COLT, Energis, Scottish Hydro-Electric, MFS, ScottishPower and Torch Telecom. In addition, Vodafone was granted a new PTO licence, allowing provision of fixed as well as mobile services.

Final tranche of Government's shares in BT sold.

1994: More national PTO licences granted. Seven more new national and regional PTOs were licensed: Norweb, Videotron City & Westminster, Sprint, Telstra, WorldCom, Racal Network Services and AT&T (UK). In addition Cellnet was granted a new PTO licence for the provision of fixed as well as mobile services, bringing the total to 16 national and regional PTOs. Publication in November of a Command Paper entitled "Creating the Superhighways of the Future: Developing Broadband Communications in the UK", which set out the Government's vision on the development of superhighways in the UK.

1995: National PTO licences granted to Liberty, Atlantic and South Western Electricity Board Telecoms Ltd.

1996: Launch of the Government’s Information Society Initiative in February, which aims to promote the beneficial use and development of information and communications technologies - multimedia - in the UK.

Maintenance of private switches (ie those run under a class licence) liberalised, allowing greater competition in the equipment maintenance market.

First Local Delivery Operator Telecommunications Act licences issued to provide telecommunication services (primarily television) in the areas of West Kent, Glamorgan & Gwent, Northern Ireland, Blackpool, Southport, Totton & Hythe and Wythall.

International Facilities liberalised. 45 licences issued in December 1996 and January 1997.

1997 UK Chairmanship of the WTO negotiations led to agreement on 15 February 1997 by 69 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to open their basic telecoms markets to competition. The agreement set frameworks for liberalisation of market access and also for basic regulatory principles.

Government announces review of utility regulation.

1998 European Union Telecoms Networks fully liberalised from 1 January, following the UK’s lead.

Government announces "Broadband Britain": national PTOs permitted to both convey and provide broadcast entertainment over their networks in areas of the country not yet covered by cable operator franchises, with a commitment to allow national PTOs and others to convey and provide broadcast entertainment throughout the whole country from 1 January 2001.

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Last revised : Thursday, March 26, 1999

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