Ofcom’s decision to legally separate Openreach from BT could be good news for South East businesses yearning for the faster delivery of essential broadband services.
There was a tone of exasperation in Ofcom’s latest statement announcing that it’s going ahead with legal separation of Openreach into a distinct company with its own board claiming BT’s voluntary suggestions don’t go far enough.
For more than ten years, Openreach’s job has been to deliver services for all UK communication providers, not just BT. However, Ofcom has decided these services can be provided more effectively with a chairman and some independent board members who are not affiliated to BT.
Despite this, Openreach will still be a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT so it remains to be seen how the legal separation will benefit businesses in the South East.
Ofcom’s current view is that a “robust form of legal separation” is better than structural separation. The latter would split BT and Openreach into two totally separate companies. Ofcom believes legal separation is likely to achieve the greatest improvements for everyone in the shortest time.
Will Openreach control its own assets?
Ofcom may change its current perspective and opt for structural separation instead if Openreach does not assume control of its own assets and cash to help it improve services for everyone.
Gary Jowett from Computer & Network Consultants in Brighton says: “Ofcom’s decision is at least a step in the right direction and will, hopefully, help Openreach to focus on providing a better service for all customers. One key improvement businesses in Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey want is quicker installation of leased lines as many face a long wait and that’s very damaging for their operational effectiveness and productivity.”
Such delays in installing leased lines are clearly the fault of Openreach’s inability to provide an efficient service but it’s also due to local authorities not granting traffic management permissions so that new services can be installed in an efficient manner.
Gary says: “In some cases, local authorities could grant permission for communication services to be installed at the same time as other utilities so there aren’t two sets of roadworks in the same place at different times. It’s also amazing to still see there are delays in new-build locations because broadband connections aren’t always being treated as important as electricity or water supplies. In fact, broadband services are now as much a priority for local businesses as other utilities.”
Consider 4G alternatives
While the impact of Openreach’s separation from BT remains uncertain, any company finding difficulty establishing essential network services installed in the ground should speak to their IT consultants about alternatives.
Gary says: “In London, for example, wayleaves and traffic management permissions are incredibly hard to obtain so it’s worth considering 4G mobile network operators such as RELISH who can provide a viable alternative at a reasonable price and in much shorter timescales.”