Ofcom announced on Friday that David Edmonds, the former head of Oftel, was resigning from its board almost a year earlier than planned.
Edmonds departure comes just weeks after Ofcom was highly critical of the state of the UK telecoms market -- which Edmonds was responsible for regulating between 1998 and 2003.
Ofcom said that Edmonds was leaving at his own request early in the New Year, to pursue public- and commercial-sector interests. His three-year term as a non-executive member of the Ofcom board was supposed to run until September 2005.
Lord Currie, chairman of Ofcom, said in a statement that Edmonds had "made a significant contribution to the sector through some of its most formative years."
Edmonds himself said that "it has been a fascinating seven years since I was first appointed to Oftel then subsequently to the board of Ofcom. I now look forward to working in some new areas."
His departure may highlight a clash of cultures in Ofcom, which has taken on the responsibilities of five separate regulators.
"There's a tension in Ofcom between the old guard and the new," said one industry source. "Oftel had a very civil service-like mentality, while Currie and [Stephen] Carter [Ofcom chief executive] have a more visionary approach."
In the second phase of its strategic review of telecommunications, published last month, Ofcom stated that competition in the UK market was "fragile" and announced that a "fresh and coherent approach" to regulation was needed.
This was effectively an admission that Oftel had failed to force BT to give equality of access to its wholesale network, 20 years after the incumbent telco was privatised.
Throughout the last few years of Oftel's existence, many telecoms operators complained that BT was failing to play fair -- with some blaming Edmond's organisation for not being tough enough.
In December 2000, the trade and industry select committee accused Oftel of "appalling complacency" over local-loop unbundling, shortly after the Internet Service Providers Association claimed it was being dictated to by BT.