BT poaches C&W exec to drive openreach

One of BT's long-time critics has been lured to the telco's new access division

BT has lured a senior executive from rival Cable & Wireless to help run openreach, the new access division that is meant to bring fair competition to the UK telecoms sector.

The ten-strong openreach executive team was announced by BT on Tuesday morning. It includes the appointment of Emma Gilthorpe, group director of regulatory affairs at Cable & Wireless, to be director of equivalence and public affairs at openreach.

This is something of a coup for BT, as C&W has been one of its fiercest critics in recent years and has repeatedly called for the incumbent telco to be broken up.

This pressure probably played a part in the creation of openreach, as Ofcom threatened to begin the process of splitting BT unless it took steps to encourage competition.

Gilthorpe herself has publicly attacked BT in the past. In 2000, she told a parliamentary select committee that BT was guilty of "tactical obfuscation" in its approach to local-loop unbundling. "They [BT] are doing very little to facilitate this process," Gilthorpe said.

In 2003, Gilthorpe also blamed Oftel, the then communications regulator, for failing to create more competition.

"Oftel's approach of market micro-management has not proved particularly fruitful. We need clearer regulatory principles," Gilthorpe told The Times.

"This [Gilthorpe's] appointment is good evidence that we're serious about taking a more constructive approach in the future, and ending the bickering of the past. This is someone who can go out and talk to the industry about their problems," said a BT spokesman.

In a statement, Gilthorpe said she hoped that openreach could deliver 'equivalence' to the market, by creating a level playing field between BT's own retail operations and its rivals.

"This is a new start for the UK telecoms market and, if we get it right, it will lead to fundamental and lasting change," Gilthorpe said.

Other senior figures at openreach include Anne Heal, BT's director of regulatory affairs, who will be openreach's managing director for sales, products and marketing.