The European Parliament (EP) has approved proposed regulations for local loop unbundling in the UK, meaning that BT will have to open up its local networks to rivals from the beginning of next year.
Competition among carriers for reseller and systems integrator partners is expected to intensify as companies such as Telia and Energis capitalise on new aggressive reseller schemes when BT's competitive advantage is removed.
The EP voted overwhelmingly on Friday to adopt the draft law, proposed by European Union (EU) ministers last month, requiring telcos to allow their rivals to provide high-speed services over the last mile of local copper loops.
BT has said previously that it would let some rivals into its local exchanges from 1 January, but this ruling means any competitor must be given access unless it can be proved that it is technically impossible. BT plans full access by July.
The EU regulation on unbundling will still have to be signed by the Council of Ministers, which is due to meet in a few weeks' time. The regulation will then be passed into UK law with immediate effect.
New entrants will be able to take BT to court if the telco fails to open up access.
According to Nick Clegg, a member of the EP, the legislation will ensure that the urgent need for local loop unbundling will "finally become a reality from the end of this year", and that incumbent telcos will not be able to "drag their feet".
Clegg said that unbundling will promote lower costs and an increased choice for the consumer, and is the urgent measure needed for Europe to catch up with the US.
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