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BT's 'honeymoon period' nearing end

Patience running out

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BT has been warned that its "honeymoon period" is coming to an end after some telcos said they were still sceptical about changes designed to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive and transparent.

The warning was contained in that latest assessment of Openreach, BT's access services division created earlier this year as part of a regulatory settlement with Ofcom.

Openreach was set up to ensure that rival telcos and operators get transparent and equal access to BT's phone network after firms complained that BT was abusing its dominant position as both a wholesale and retail provider of telecoms services.

This partial "splitting" of the former monopoly meant BT was spared an investigation that could have led to its break-up.

But four months after the creation of Openreach a survey of operators on behalf of Ofcom has found that "few concrete changes" have been introduced although it is accepted that it is still "early days".

Broadly speaking, the findings from the survey are mixed. On one hand, there are those who are generally supportive of Openreach and who recognise that setting up such a major new organisation is bound to throw up some teething problems.

Then there are "sceptics", who said they need to see changes before giving their full support to the new structure.

The report said: "While most of Openreach's customers appreciate that the pace of change has been such that there were bound to be teething problems, many stressed that the honeymoon period is now ending and that they required significant improvements within the next six to 12 months."

Key issues that need to be dealt with include recruiting more staff and speeding up the delivery of products and services. One plus point for BT came from local loop unbundling (LLU) operators who said they had already seen "positive change" although further work was still needed.

In a statement, BT described the report as "constructive" adding that "many of the issues raised in the report have since been addressed".

"It is still very early days in implementing what is a massive and radical change in the way the industry and BT operate after more than two decades of regulation," it said.

"A huge amount has been achieved to date, including the creation of Openreach, a new 30,000 person business. BT has delivered against every single one of its undertakings to date, and everyone is committed to delivering the remainder," it said. ®

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