When Cable and Wireless first announced its Bulldog broadband service with what appeared to be blistering bandwidth speeds, for a short while it seemed as if the company was back.

With video on the net the next big application, we all need lots of bandwidth and Bulldog seemed to be at the vanguard. It seemed that the 160-year-old telecom company was about to arrest years of decline. But, 18 months later, a raft of criticism in the press and a technical support service that could not cope with the complaints, Bulldog has been thrown into the great Cable and Wireless dustbin, to sit along side other great CW disasters such as the Mercury fixed line telephone debacle of the ’90s.

The company signed up just 110,000 customers, compared to the 340,000 odd new customers signed up to the Carphone Warehouse service in the last six weeks. With Wanadoo entering the free broadband circus, with BSkyB, Orange and Vodafone all cooking plans, Cable and Wireless missed the boat. It simply took them too long to sort out the technical problems, to reverse the negative publicity, and as a result, new business development was far too slow.

The Group MD of Cable and Wireless UK, John Pluthero, who in a past life was busy bringing free dial up internet access to the masses via Freeserve, and giving the established players the same kind of headache he is now suffering from at Cable and Wireless, announced the decision yesterday.

The company will instead focus on the corporate market and wholesale. So its investment in local loop unbundling has not been completely wasted, – and in fact the company plans to continue with this process. So far it has its own equipment in 411 exchanges, and is targeting 800 by September of this year.

It appears that the company felt it could not compete with players such as Carphone with its retail network, or BSkyB with its mass captive audience.

One assumes that wholesale means CW infrastructure will be available to other entrants in the market who don’t want to invest in local loop unbundling- precisely the type of model that Vodafone, for example, has said it is interested in.

But, with AOL recently announcing plans to sell its UK broadband ISP operation, this is becoming a tough market – and all players must be fretting right now- there’s a land grab on – there are many players – but there will only be a few winners.

© Investment & Business News 2013