The Openreach Dilemma

Against a backdrop of Ofcom’s recently announced ‘once-in-a-decade review of the
communications market’ Comms Business got the lowdown on the latest news for Ethernet and Broadband from BT.

Paul Beacham, GM for Ethernet products at BT Wholesale, has told us that the roll-out of their Ethernet nodes continues.

“We’ve enabled a further 540 Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) nodes and we will be rolling out an additional 600 fibre nodes from 2015/16. So resellers will now have even more opportunities to branch out into the market or expand their current portfolio and tap into the potential of Ethernet connectivity cost effectively. Furthermore, from 2nd March 2015 to 30th September 2015, there will be a new set of prices across our entire Etherflow Dynamic range, with prices reduced by up to 24%.”

Beacham says that as a result of channel feedback BT Wholesale has also launched new pricing on their EFM Standard and Default Class of Service. The pricing will give a 12.5% discount for Standard CoS and 10% for Default CoS (from the Premium CoS price).

“We currently offer Wholesale Data Centre Connect at 1Gbit/s from a number of UK Data Centres and have now added a 10Gbit/s variant at numerous sites with plans to increase our footprint in 2015.”

BTW says they do not currently have a footprint or switching capability within the Hull area to provide services directly however they are scheduling to launch in Q1 next FY an Ethernet Edge Switch (EES) that extends their reach into Hull. 10M, 100M & 1Gbps access options will be available and offered over a one-year term.

Meanwhile in BT broadband news, Simon Brisbourne, GM for Broadband products, says there will be increased availability of Wholesale Broadband Connect

“We’ve recently announced a further roll-out of Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) including details of the first 100 exchanges that will be ready for migration. Broadband customers who want to access our 21C IP network have already been informed.

This new initiative is part of our commitment to rolling out WBC to more exchanges. Details of the further sites involved will be available shortly. This new development will enable more customers to access the 21C IP network and migrations started this April.”

Brisbourne concluded, “WBC fibre broadband is now available in 3,300 exchanges across the UK and we are adding over 200 cabinets every week to our 61,224 total as it stands today. What this means is that 21.7 million homes and businesses can now get access to our Superfast services.”

Ofcom Review

Earlier BT’s rivals attacked the ‘conflict of interest’ as Ofcom launched an over-arching review of the communications market that some say could result in the separation of Openreach.

Under the stewardship of the newly appointed chief executive Sharon White, previously a senior civil servant at the Treasury, Ofcom has launched a once-in-a-decade review of the communications market and whether it is delivering the infrastructure and services the economy needs.

Rivals including Sky and TalkTalk seized on the landmark Ofcom review to call for BT Openreach, the division that runs its physical infrastructure, to be spun off into a new, completely independent company. Such a split would be seen as the most radical regulatory response to BT’s power and strongly resisted by the company.

Ofcom said it was launching the over-arching review with ‘a blank sheet of paper’ in response to the ‘huge changes’ in the industry over the decade since Openreach was created. Questions over Britain’s digital infrastructure have, however, become more urgent as a result of the recent quick-fire round of takeovers, partnerships and expansion initiatives.

Sky and TalkTalk argue that although BT has spent billions to upgrade most of its network from copper wire to fibre-optic cables, it has under-invested in service and maintenance to the detriment of rivals and the public. Openreach has never met its repair targets in five years and has been sharply criticised over the delays suffered by businesses and homebuyers seeking a new connection, for instance.

Baronness Harding at TalkTalk, said, “I think the network has absolutely been under-invested. BT has as good as admitted they stopped doing basic maintenance during the fibre rollout.”

In a sign that BT will be having none of this BT has lashed out at Sky and TalkTalk for calling for it to be stripped of control of the national telecoms network, branding them ‘armchair generals’ and ‘naysayers’ who are threatening investment in Britain’s digital infrastructure.

John Petter, head of its consumer division and a key lieutenant to chief executive Gavin Patterson, said, “I think instead of sniping from the side-lines and relentlessly pushing for lower wholesale input prices, that our industry should be working together to invest to give consumers the service standards that they deserve.”

Ed Says…

Ofcom will NEVER have the backbone to break up BT unless told to do so by an incoming government. Expect the normal fudge and a ten year plan to put things right.


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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine