Immediately after Ofcom announced that Openreach was to become a legally separate company within BT Group, with its own board and branding, the media was filled with vitriol from outraged competitors who claimed it wasn’t enough, and that Openreach needed to be full independent.
This was always going to happen – whatever Ofcom said. In our view this is a positive and realistic decision, one that will encourage competition and speed up the roll-out of fibre across the UK. And that’s good news for the channel.
Ofcom pointedly noted during the media frenzy that the UK was lagging behind other nations in terms of access to fibre, with only 2% of the currently country able to access ultrafast broadband delivered by fibre. But that covers a lot of heavily populated and commercialised areas. According to Openreach, more than 25 million premises already have access to fibre broadband, and around 27,000 are being added each week.
During the coverage last week, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson also said that 95% of the country will have high-speed Internet by the end of 2017 (that’s next year), and BT hopes to take that to 100% by 2020.
In fact our coverage right now is similar to that of Germany’s. There are a handful of countries that have exceptional levels of coverage; Spain, Portugal, Lithuania and South Korea, for example, have around 60%, in Japan its 70%.
The UK roll-out programme for fibre is accelerating fast and with this announcement, the public pressure is well and truly on, so we can expect even more investment on top of the £6 billion BT announced in May.
At the end of the day, it is all about the competitiveness of the UK against the rest of the world. We have a great network, but we need it to be quicker and more available to everyone. At the same time we need to recognise that it costs money to upgrade the infrastructure that we’ve had in place for so long.
The BT-Openreach relationship is now in the spotlight and will be more visible and transparent. The decision to make it a separate entity is one that suits everyone and will add fuel to the ultrafast competitive fire. That is great news for resellers and dealers looking to capture the connectivity business of customer that will be the gateway for hosted voice and cloud-based software and services.