Mercury Communications Ltd has issued a preliminary response to a Telecommunications Users Association survey on users’ perceptions of UK carriers, predictably agreeing with the positive findings, and expressing surprise where it is criticised. British Telecommunications Plc has yet to respond to the survey. The Quality and Choice: User Perceptions of the Public Network Operators report surveyed over 1,000 Association members, and questioned them on how effective they felt British Telecom and Mercury to be. Disappointingly, the London-based Users Association is being cagey on the survey’s precise results because it is worried that giving out too many details will stop people buying the thing. And it is not even giving out the price of the report, because it is afraid that this will put people off. Assuming that the conclusions in the executive summary (which is all that the Association has released) are statistically significant, the report does show that liberalisation of UK telecommunications has not had its full desired effect. While British Telecom was thought to generally provide a reliable service, reservations were expressed about its continuing ability to provide the same level of service in the wake of its Release ’92 redundancy scheme, and the Sovereign rationalisation programme. For its part, there was a perception that Mercury operates a two-tier service, with customers in greater London being better served than those in other parts of the country. Specifically, there were complaints of network congestion in the Manchester, Birmingham and East Anglia areas, and a lack of responsiveness to customer demands. The tariffs charged by both British Telecom and Mercury were felt to be too high, specifically for network connection, and the inability to compare British Telecom and Mercury charges directly was thought a major problem area. While it was felt regulation was needed as long as BT maintains its dominant position, competition was seen as the optimum long-term solution. Specifically, users felt it should be introduced on the local loop, geographic areas where Mercury coverage is weak, and analogue private circuits, on which BT enjoys a monopoly. Disappointingly for its proponents, ISDN was seen predominantly as a back-up to private circuits for disaster recovery purposes or just a digital link. This is put down to a lack of terminal equipment and ISDN applications, non-availability across all geographic sectors (British Telecom claims 90% coverage), and the tariff structures.
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