The UK regulatory authority Ofcom has today published its 'Final Statements on the Strategic Review of Telecommunications, and undertakings in lieu of a reference under the Enterprise Act 2002'.
These include the final text of the legally binding commitments entered into by the fixed incumbent operator BT Group plc. to make structural, product and governance changes, affecting its current network and the future Next Generation Network (BT 21CN).
Also today, BT Group plc. announced the establishment of the separate access division, which has been named 'openreach', and which is set up to provide wholesale inputs on non-discriminatory terms to all communications providers (i.e. BT's own divisions and BT's competitors). A fact sheet on 'openreach' is available in a BT news release published today.
The undertakings are largely similar to the original proposal put out for consultation (see also the previous T-REGS news items of 23 and 30 June 2005), with a few modifications in the following areas:
* The undertakings now make it clearer that 'openreach' is expected to be the primary sales channel for its own products, and that it may only sell to communications providers, not to end-users. Similarly, the role of BT Wholesale has been clarified.
* The 'chinese wall' provisions between 'openreach' and BT Group plc have been modified and now include a number of additional conditions. For example, no employee of 'openreach' may share customer confidential information with any other part of BT or attempt to influence commercial policy. The 'chinese walls' within BT Wholesale similarly contain a number of additional conditions.
* The undertakings now make it clear that communications providers can use 'openreach’s' backhaul products in a number of different ways.
* The undertakings now make it clear that, should BT wish to develop a replacement for the Wholesale Line Rental product (which is based on access to Multiple Service Access Nodes), then Ofcom and BT should first agree what (if any) inputs to that product should be made available on an equivalent basis to other communications providers.
* In the June undertakings the provision of Partial Private Circuits (leased line interconnection terminating segments) was effectively split between 'openreach' and BT Wholesale. 'openreach' will manage two new products: a ‘traditional interface leased line access product’, and a ‘traditional interface leased line backhaul product’. The costs attributable to these new products will form part of the cost stack for BT’s PPC product. These new products are intended to allow other operators to replicate commercially, from the point of view of their use of these new products, relevant Partial Private Circuits.
* The undertakings provide more detail on the basis of the preparation of 'openreach’s' management accounts.
For a discussion of the finalisation of Ofcom's Strategic Review, and of expected next steps for its practical implementation, please contact Yves Blondeel.