Postcomm, the British postal services regulator, announced Thursday that in just ten months the Royal Mail will lose the monopoly it has enjoyed for the past three hundred and fifty years.

As of 1 January 2006, any licensed operator will be able to deliver mail to business and residential customers. The RM purported to welcome the liberalisation which has been brought forward by fifteen months.

"We're ready," said the former Saatchi & Saatchi boss Adam Crozier, now Royal Mail chief executive. "We recognise that the regulator is getting on with his job, and welcome faster competition as long as it comes without unfair restrictions on Royal Mail."

But the Communication Workers Union is less enthusiastic, voicing fears that the forthcoming free-for-all will place "the country's cherished universal service in jeopardy".

The CWU also slammed the government's obsession with "competition at all costs" - an ethic, it says, that will put the Royal Mail at serious competitive disadvantage with European rivals.

Postcomm will shortly publish details of the new multi-operator market.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff