The ongoing discussion of Openreach and BT Wholesale combining into one entity seems to be dividing opinion among the industry. My personal view is one that is shared with TalkTalk’s Dido Harding, who was interviewed last week and spoke about a truly separate and independent Openreach.
TalkTalk of course have more to lose than most if BT continues with their plan to combine the two businesses. TalkTalk is a customer of Openreach so that they can install their own equipment in the telephone exchange and compete directly against BT Wholesale. The thought that their supplier will also be their biggest competitor will not be a positive thought. SKY of course is in the same boat and so are a number of other businesses who invest into the Openreach infrastructure.
For the wider industry and businesses such as ours, I can’t see the benefits. I can see a lot of cost cutting and improved investor return for BT Group, but for the industry? Fortunately in the UK we enjoy one of the most competitive and diverse telecoms markets in the world. This surely can only continue as long as the industry works to ensure BT provides as much of an open playing field as possible. Perhaps we didn’t go far enough and by keeping Openreach as part of the group has meant this situation is now in the realms of reality, and that actually the complete separation should have happened long ago.
Maybe it is too late. From the discussions I have heard; people in BT see it very much as a done deal. Let’s hope whatever the outcome, the needs of the industry and consumers are heard over those of the shareholders.