PCCW loses round as regulator is chided for not detailing interconnection terms PCCW has lost the latest round in its battle against the government's interconnection policy, with the High Court upholding the telecommunications regulator's right to force the fixed-line operator to lease its broadband network to rivals. This clears the way for the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) to proceed with a proposed gradual end of the existing type II interconnection policy, rather than a more abrupt change as proposed by PCCW. Ofta had proposed the roll-back occur over six years but is believed to have reduced it to three years after strong opposition from PCCW. However, the ruling has given PCCW a technical victory over Ofta, as the court deemed it 'irrational' and unlawful for the agency to force such interconnection without detailing the terms and conditions. Ofta left the details of the broadband network leasing to PCCW and rival Wharf in May 2002. The pair disagreed over the terms, which the court said gave 'no reason to excuse the authority [of] washing its hands of the matter'. The authority was obliged 'in order to ensure fairness between the parties and through that to advance the public interest, to set interim terms and conditions at the time when the direction was made', Mr Justice Michael Hartmann ruled. However, PCCW has been left in suspense over what the remedy will be - the court can quash Ofta's decision - with this to be decided at a further court hearing. 'Of central importance, I presume that any order made by myself may affect many members of the public,' Mr Justice Hartmann said. He declined to give a remedy without submissions from PCCW and Ofta. The telecommunications company said yesterday it was pleased the court found fault with Ofta's action in this case, and would study the other findings of the ruling 'and consider lodging an appeal'. The government said it was pleased the judgment had removed a legal hurdle to its interconnection policy. Francis Ho Suen-wai, permanent secretary for commerce, industry and technology, said: 'The judgment gives us a strong legal backing and clarifies that we have the power to give direction on interconnection, not just on voice service but on broadband as well.' The bureau and Ofta would table its new policy on interconnection to the Executive Council as soon as possible, he said, declining to give a date. 'We want to push forward this new policy as soon as possible because it gives investors and industry players a clear picture and makes it easier for them to make their business judgment,' Mr Ho said. It is understood Exco has rescheduled a discussion on the proposed policy change to next Tuesday. Once Exco approves the change, the new interconnection policy would be effective immediately, he said. Under existing rules, PCCW is mandated to lease its last-mile networks to rivals to spur competition.