Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 02/08/2004Some time ago, I met a Texan on a mission. Our assignation was a breakfast meeting in a swanky yet discreet hotel in the middle of London -- a hotel so posh that it disguises itself as a set of office buildings.

Monday 02/08/2004 Some time ago, I met a Texan on a mission. Our assignation was a breakfast meeting in a swanky yet discreet hotel in the middle of London -- a hotel so posh that it disguises itself as a set of office buildings. You could -- I did -- walk past it several times trying to work out where the place was. Inside, though, the place gave itself away through giant video screens, random works of art and people so hip they could replace Aunty Mabel's crumbling ischium.

In the middle of all this (the hotel, not Mabel's hip) was the restaurant, made out like a bookish teenager's bedroom, where my contacts awaited. My mystery American, his glamorous British PR minder and myself discussed secret deals his company was making with a large UK outfit. We also touched on the joys of cable companies and telcos, thusly:

Me: "Honestly, the cable companies are hopeless. They're filled with refugees who couldn't hack it in the telcos, and that's saying something."

Him: "I used to work for a telco, and I've worked closely with cable companies for years."

Me: "These scrambled eggs are nice."

The PR decided not to call security. The thrust of the meeting, when I wasn't gratuitously insulting everything my contact held dear, was that a rather exciting deal was going down and while they couldn't give me any details until the OK had been received from their customer, this would be happening any day now.

Days passed. I call the PR. "Um." she said. "It's up to the customer."

Now it's Monday, and the press release is out! Alvarion is selling BT wireless kit for a public broadband service -- the first that BT's doing in this country. Not a bad story, you'd think, given the amount of interest in, hype and genuine importance of broadband wireless. Alvarion thinks so. BT... well, who can tell what BT think? They have apparently released some information already -- last week, the rumour has it -- but nobody inside BT or out can quite put their finger on it. And there's a rumour that BT asked Alvarion not to put out a press release at all -- or if they did, to release it but not to tell anybody in the press.

After many phone calls (PR A -- "Call PR B!" PR B -- "Call PR A!" PR C... is not answering his phone because he's in the pub with the Guardian's telco correspondent) the Northern Ireland office of BT finally comes up with the goods. After one breakfast meeting, umpteen phone calls and a good three hours chasing people who really didn't want to be chased I have a tiny story that I think is nothing but positive news for all concerned but that BT didn't want me to write.

I don't mind getting the brush-off when BT's been a rancid bunch of cold pigeon poo, but when BT's actually done something good? What on earth are they hiding?

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