BT fights back against break-up calls

Chief executive Ben Verwaayen claims that it would be disastrous if Ofcom took the plunge and began the process of splitting BT

BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen has launched a spirited defence against demands for the UK's incumbent telco to be broken up.

Verwaayen told MPs on Tuesday that it would be "a disaster" for the UK if BT's network operations were split off into a separate business, as some of its rivals say is needed to create competition in the UK telecoms market.

Communications regulator Ofcom has threatened to begin the process of breaking BT if the telco fails to give other operators fair access to its network. Verwaayen insisted on Tuesday that BT's own proposals to create a separate 'access division' made more sense.

"[Break up] would be painful, costly, very slow and cumbersome," said Verwaayen, appearing before the trade and industry select committee at parliament.

Ofcom is weighing up this issue as part of its strategic review of the telecommunications market. The regulator told the committee last week says it is still working out. whether BT's proposed 'access division' would work in practice.

Verwaayen also claimed that the move would hamper BT's attempts to upgrade to a IP-based infrastructure. This £10bn 21st Century Network project is not without controversy, though. Tiscali told the committee last week that BT's secretive approach is making it hard for other operators to plan their own network rollouts.