BT launches access services division

Openreach may offer the UK its best chance for a generation of a truly fair and competitive telecoms market

BT will launch a new access services division called Openreach on Wednesday, which could bring more competition to Britain's telecoms sector.

Openreach will oversee the maintenance of BT's national telecoms network and the installation of new infrastructure. Although it is still part of BT, it has been fenced off from the rest of the organisation with its own headquarters and staff.

A crucial part of Openreach's role is to give every telecoms service provider fair and equal access to BT's network.

Last year, Ofcom threatened BT with a review under the Enterprise Act, which could have led to the company being split up, unless it took action. BT's response was to offer to create Openreach, which Ofcom accepted as part of a regulatory settlement in September.

Openreach will consist of around 30,000 employees — 25,000 of whom will be engineers — and is being headed up by chief executive Steve Robertson.

Analysts at Ovum met with Robertson last month, and reported that they were impressed with the progress made in the creation of Openreach.

"Some in the industry hope BT's undertakings will enable the industry to reach settlement on the arguments that have characterised the sector for the past 20 years. It is early days, but on the evidence so far, Openreach could be the catalyst around which the industry can achieve this," said Ovum analyst Mike Cansfield.