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Changing BT makes 'good start'

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BT has made "a good start" meeting new regulatory obligations to provide the UK telecoms industry with equal access to its network.

So says the Equality of Access Board (EAB), an independent body set up last year to monitor and scrutinise BT's organisation and to ensure that the incumbent telco meets 230 legally binding undertakings that form part of the new deal struck with the regulator Ofcom.

Last September, BT agreed to "substantive structural, product and governance changes, affecting both its current and future networks". Central to that was the creation of a new access services division within BT called Openreach to ensure that all telcos get equal access to BT's network.

In its first annual report the EAB says that BT "has made as good a start as might have been hoped for, meeting all of the initial Undertakings milestones and delivery deadlines".

"For example, the creation of Openreach as an organisation of 30,000 is one which BT has shown great determination in achieving. While not everything has gone flawlessly, we see commitment to addressing the areas which need more work."

It went on: "The complexity associated with delivering the equivalence targets during the next 12 months make the challenges for BT more significant. The combination of the scale of the system and process changes required and the challenging timescales committed to in the Undertakings means the highest hurdles are still to come."

In particular, the EAB has flagged up two areas of concern. Once concerns local loop unbundling (LLU) and the other Wholesale Line Rental (WLR). In both cases the EAB says that the work involved is complex and challenging and has warned that the delivery of fit for purpose products "is at risk".

That said, the EAB remains convinced that there is the desire within BT to deliver these systems on time.

Commenting on the report Openreach chief exec Steve Robertson: "We've achieved a lot in the last few months, and have hit every deadline to date.

"But that won't mean much if we don't continue to work hard towards our stated aims over the next few months. And we will do just that.

"Everyone within Openreach is passionate about delivering an excellent level of service to all our communication provider customers. This Report makes it clear that we still have some way to go before we get there, but get there we will."

Last week a survey of industry players published by Ofcom warned that BT's "honeymoon period" in the aftermath of its reorganisation was 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.

Some telcos said they were generally supportive of Openreach recognising 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." ®

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