2. TELECOMMUNICATIONS LIBERALISATION SINCE 1980: KEY MILESTONES
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
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
1995: National PTO licences granted to Liberty, Atlantic and South Western
Electricity Board Telecoms Ltd.
1996: Launch of the Governments 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 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 UKs 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