BT today unveiled openreach, a new multi-billion pound business that will be responsible for the nationwide local BT network.
openreach is set to become a familiar household name as it will contain BT’s field force of 25,000 engineers. These engineers make more than 3.5 million home visits every year on behalf of hundreds of companies. They are the men and women who install new lines, upgrade the local network and maintain the green cabinets at the side of the road. In short, they are the people who ensure that tens of millions of people across the UK have reliable local access to telephony and internet services.
The business, as well as having a new name, will also have a dramatic new look. Its 22,000 vans are to be re-sprayed to distinguish them from the rest of the BT fleet. They will be instantly recognisable by the bright multi-coloured waves that stretch the length of each vehicle.
openreach is being created as a result of a regulatory settlement – a possible alternative would have seen the giant broken up. It will be operational from January 2006 ensuring all service providers have transparent and equal access to the local BT network. This network covers the “first mile” of wires that connects homes and business to BT exchanges across the UK.
It will be led by chief executive Steve Robertson, whose appointment was confirmed today. Whilst remaining an important part of BT, it will have its own headquarters, distinct identity and around 30,000 staff. These staff will come primarily from BT Wholesale and BT Retail.
The business will be the second largest within BT Group by number of employees and will have assets of around £8 billion and revenues of more than £4 billion. This makes it comparable in size to some FTSE 100 companies.
openreach will have its performance monitored by the newly created Equality of Access Board (EAB). This Board will monitor the delivery of the undertakings given by BT to Ofcom and so will also monitor the performance of BT Wholesale in certain areas. Carl Symon, one of BT’s non-executive directors, will chair the Board which will have a majority of independent external members.
openreach chief executive Steve Robertson said: “The local BT network is one of the UK’s most important assets and my role is to ensure everyone has equal access to it. My team will be responsible for ensuring tens of millions of homes and businesses have access to the wider world and to faster and more exciting services in the future. Now we have a green light we can get down to delivering a business that everyone can be proud of. There’s a huge amount to be done by January but, given the progress we’ve already made, I am sure we will be ready.”
The structure of BT Northern Ireland will not be affected.