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BT Calls for Ofcom Regulations Reform

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BT is putting pressure on regulator Ofcom to loosen regulations as part of its plans to shut off its traditional network and move all businesses and consumers to IP by 2025. Under the current Ofcom rules, which were drawn up a decade ago, BT are obligated to provide a traditional phone service. BT claim that that a change in regulations will help telecoms companies compete better with US internet companies such as Facebook and Apple.

Mark Shurmer, BT’s group director of regulatory affairs, said: “We believe obsolete regulation should be rolled back, rather than clinging on until the last user dies.

Currently the obligation to maintain the traditional phone network falls on Openreach, who must provide retail rivals such as Sky and TalkTalk with wholesale access on equal terms.

Openreach has been subject to scrutiny by the industry over the last twelve months as BT rivals Sky and Talk Talk call for the BT-arm to be fully separated from the telecom giant to create a financially independent company. Meanwhile BT is fighting for deregulation instead.

Ofcom is looking at the issue as part of its once-a-decade review of the communications market. Under the Ofcom rules Openreach’s data must be kept physically separate from the rest of BT data to ensure other parts of the company cannot gain an advantage over rivals.

BT argues that the modern ability to create virtual walls within data centres means the regulations are out of date.

Mr Shurmer said such savings will “level the playing field” between all telecoms companies and “over-the-top” internet companies such as Facebook, who use the network and compete for customers via mobile apps such as WhatsApp, but do not face the same regulatory burdens.

Mr Shurmer said: “Regulation has not kept up at all with the growth in over-the-top services. Some of the [Openreach] undertakings have basically become quite outdated.”

Ofcom will be publishing the formal phase of its strategic market review this July where the regulator will invite views on potential areas for reform.

If BT’s plans are approved then the Channel will have a decade to migrate their customers onto the IP network which will have a huge impact on the services they offer customers going forwards. If you are a reseller and want to have your say about the proposed plans from BT please send your views to David Dungay at David@commsbusiness.co.uk