23 September 2005 Telecommunications giant BT has finally launched the business unit it was forced to create in order to give its competitors fair access to its local networks.
BT’s Openreach will become operational in January 2006, and will enable it to help its competitors gain access to the “first mile” of wires that connects homes and businesses to BT exchanges nationwide. It will supply a set of wholesale access products, including local loop unbundling.
Communications regulator Ofcom had previously threatened to break up BT if the telecommunications carrier did not unbundle its stranglehold on the “local loop”.
Openreach will be housed in separate headquarters away from BT, although its 30,000 employees will comes primarily from BT’s wholesale and retail divisions. Chief executive Steve Robertson will be head up the unit, but it will be monitored by a new Equality of Access Board (EAB).
“The local BT network is one of the UK’s most important assets and my role is to ensure everyone has equal access to it,” said Robertson. “My team will be responsible for ensuring tens of millions of homes and businesses have access to the wider world and to faster and more exciting services in the future.”
Telecoms research analysts at Ovum said this is a major opportunity for BT to demonstrate that it is no longer “walking slowly backwards”.
However, the new management of Openreach and the Equality of Access Board must now deliver – and be seen to deliver, warned Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter. “Ofcom is hopeful that this new approach to competition regulation will stimulate investment, innovation and sustainable growth in this critical industrial sector.”