HC Deb 28 July 1983 vol 46 cc573-4W
Mr. Rowe

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about the Government's plans to permit competition in the maintenance of all types of new call routeing apparatus connected to the public switched telephone network.

Mr. Butcher

On 7 February my hon. Friend the Minister for Information Technology told the House about the recommendations made by Professor Stephen Littlechild of Birmingham university in his report to the Government on issues affecting regulation and competition in telecommunications. He announced several further initiatives by the Government to promote competition, including the decision that the maintenance of all new call routeing apparatus will be opened to competition by persons approved by the Secretary of State. He said that he would be consulting industry and other interested parties on the phasing-in of these arrangements which he expected to be completed within three to four years.

These consultations have now taken place and I can now give the Government's detailed plans for the introduction of competition in the maintenance of all kinds of new call routeing apparatus connected to the public switched telephone network run by British Telecommunications. These arrangements will be extended to call routeing apparatus connected to any other public switched telephone network.

The maintenance of approved new stored programme controlled digital call routeing apparatus and approved new dealer boards is already open to competition. Competition in the maintenance of other new call routeing apparatus will be phased in, according to type of apparatus, on the following qualifying dates:

On 1 August 1983 key telephone systems having at least two exchange line connections.

On the date of liberalisation of the prime telephone call routeing apparatus other than plan sets, having one exchange line connection;

On 31 December 1984 PBXs of up to 120 extensions.

On 1 July 1985 PBXs of over 120 extensions.

On 31 December 1985 Key and lamp units.

On 1 July 1986 Automatic call distribution apparatus.

On 1 November 1986 Plan sets and apparatus not elsewhere specified.

"New" call routeing apparatus means any item of approved call routeing apparatus which at a particular site is first brought into service on the PSTN on or after the appropriate qualifying date. An existing or second-hand item of approved call routeing apparatus moved to a new location and brought into service on the PSTN after the appropriate qualifying date may be maintained by an approved contractor. So, too, may approved call routeing apparatus in use as a part of a private system but not connected to the PSTN before the qualifying date, if it is first connected to the PSTN after that date. Such apparatus may need modification in order to comply with the relevant standards for apparatus connected to the PSTN. But apparatus will not qualify for competitive maintenance simply by being taken out of service on the PSTN and being reconnected on the same site after the qualifying date. Maintenance of call routeing apparatus will be permitted to be carried out only by persons who are listed by the Secretary of State as being entitled to carry out maintenance work on that particular model of apparatus. The British Standards Institution has established, at the Government's request, a system for the registration of maintainers of approved call routeing apparatus. At present this covers only the maintenance of spc digital call routeing apparatus and dealer boards. However, I am asking the BSI to extend the scope of its scheme to cover the remaining types of call routeing apparatus in keeping with the timebable I have outlined. Maintainers must be registered by the BSI in respect of each individual model of call routeing apparatus they wish to maintain before the Secretary of State will consider entering their names upon the list of persons who may maintain that model or models of apparatus.