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Telcos complain about lack of Openreach staff

Openreach promises to recruit more account managers

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BT Openreach has promised to recruit more staff to manage the accounts of phone companies and broadband providers following complaints from operators. Openreach chief exec Steve Robertson has given written assurances to Ofcom that more workers will be brought on board over the coming months to deal with the workload.

The issue was raised in correspondence between BT and Ofcom concerning the creation of BT's new access services division (ASD) Openreach.

Openreach forms part of a regulatory deal with Ofcom to ensure that rival telcos and operators get transparent and equal access to BT's phone network. Operating at arms length from the rest of BT, Openreach is responsible for installing and maintaining telecoms services on behalf of the UK's phone companies and ISPs, giving them equal access to products such as wholesale line rental (WLR) and local loop unbundling (LLU).

A month after its official unveiling in January, Ofcom wanted to ensure the launch was in line with the agreement made last year.

"In the course of carrying out the work to assess whether ASD has been appropriately established," the regulator wrote, "Ofcom has become aware of concerns raised by some other communications providers about the lack of a fully populated account management team within Openreach."

Ofcom went on to say that it has "received written assurances from Openreach CEO Steve Robertson of his intention to fill 50 per cent of the vacancies within the relevant area by the end of March 2006 and the remainder rapidly thereafter".

In the meantime, Ofcom notes that Openreach's customers - telcos and ISPs - can either liaise directly with individual Openreach departments or deal with their existing BT account manager.

However, Ofcom went on to say that it will continue to "monitor progress in this area as the need for an effective account management function is critical in ensuring ongoing compliance with the letter and spirit of the undertakings".

For its part, BT believes that the changes it has made concerning the creation of Openreach are proof that it is meeting its regulatory responsibilities.

These changes include setting up a new HQ, making staff aware of their new responsibilities, introducing a new logo distinct from BT, and repainting thousands of vans in the new livery.

Earlier this month, Ofcom launched its first formal investigation into Openreach after Opal Telecom (part of Carphone Warehouse) called on the regulator to resolve an LLU-related dispute. Opal's beef concerns the rate charged by Openreach for the bulk migration of fully unbundled lines, as opposed to shared lines, claiming that the charges are "discriminatory" and in breach of Openreach's "obligations". ®

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