What's Next?

Added by Chris Pateman | Friday 24th June 2016

So we’re out, then.  

Well, let’s make a start at imagining telecoms life without the EU.  The UK has a massive advantage.  Ofcom, whatever its faults, is the best telecoms regulator not only in Europe but in the world.  

So let’s be ambitious.  Make Britain the first with equivalence of wholesale access on the mobile networks in the same way as for fixed-line voice and data.  The UK has 10 years’ experience to call on -- and a newly merged fixed-plus-mobile network operator which is well used to Ofcom’s scrutiny. 

We already have one of the most mature and dynamic voice and data markets in the world.  And we have a government (and especially a CMS Select Committee) which is willing to be suspicious of anything which smacks of monopoly.  Therefore, we have a better chance of driving the kind of systemic changes that can open up the market, now the UK can go it alone.  

What opportunities await us in a post-Brexit comms market will be governed by two things:  the speed with which the UK disentagles from the EU, and -- most crucially -- the boldness with which industry lifts its eyes from the status quo.

Nature abhors a vacuum.  And nowhere more so than in the world of 24-hour news.  So in the absence of any useful new information, it's no great surprise to hear those same pre-referendum sound-bites being recycled as post-referendum wisdom. The self-appointed spokespeople of the 'Tech Sector' (whatever that is supposed to mean) certainly seem happy to breathe new life into warnings of skills shortages, threats to the UK as a world digital hub and concerns about ongoing funding for start-ups underpinned by the European Investment Fund's investments in UK venture capital firms.  

Well, Paris, Frankfurt and Rome have always been open to tech-literate EU citizens, so we can presume they have chosen to come to the UK for reasons other than the weather or the food.  Would we want them to go?  And wasn't the whole point of an eventual points-based immigration system that it would allow 'Tech Sector' employers to attract the most talented individuals from anywhere in the world?  What's the down-side?  Are the innovative outputs of our tech-hub hothouses suitable only for sale within the EU markets?  And does the EIB invest in UK tech start-ups out a sense of reckless philanthropy?  Or is it, perhaps, because UK venture capitalists have an enviable track record of picking winners? 

Oh, let us focus not on the might-have-been, and seek out instead the possibilities which lie before us with shorter and accountable reporting lines.  Britain can be a world-leader like never before if we can only summon the vision and the courage to embrace the opportunity and shape our own future.

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June's FSP Round-Up

Added by Cathy Gerosa | Tuesday 21st June 2016

June's dial-in Fixed Service Providers meeting featured interesting discussions around Member SoRs, Review of General Conditions, TUFF reseller forum and latest feedback from NPPCG, SMF and CFPCG, slides availabile here.

 

A reminder that the next face to face meeting on 26th July will include 3 presentations from Openreach:

1. SOGEA - Fergus Crockett - answering questions such as:

What will be the sales process for the service?

How is it different from MPF/SMPF?

What impact will it have on services OR can offer to customers?

What is the impact on voice (WLR/MPF) – we keep hearing the “no dial-tone” warning, but what is the reality?

Will CPs still be able to offer a PATS compliant service?

2. Harmonised Repair - Sophia Batalova

3. Changes to contacting the Customer Experience Team - Jillian Smith

 

Please contact me should you have any questions.

Cathy Gerosa

cgerosa@fcs.org.uk

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Openreach -- we're all in this together, Andy.

Added by Chris Pateman | Tuesday 14th June 2016

When FCS responded to Ofcom's Digital Communications Review by joining with INCA, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone to launch a 10-point plan for a not-quite-structurally-separated Openreach, we were braced for a bit of flack.

Hadn't really expected the first salvo to come from the Communication Workers Union, though.  And, given that it has, disappointed that andy Kerr's intervention contains quite such a mish-mash of corporate-speak while saying so little about the needs and aspirations of Openreach's employees.

We and our fellow Openreach customers all want to see an improved, more flexible Openreach.  And we believe that can best be achieved by de-coupling the infrastructure business from BT’s resale businesses — in much the same way energy production has been de-coupled from energy retailing.  

None of the five parties to the 10-point plan has suggested Openreach employees are the cause of our problems:  our arguments are with stodgy, top-down corporate management thinking and poor customer responsiveness.  We want to see Openreach’s engineers empowered to use their skills and experience in the field to fix customers’ problems.  And we believe the only way to achieve this is to force a change in corporate culture.

Considering the first responsibility of the CWU is to its members, it’s a pity to see the union so philosophically aligned with the BT status-quo.  It’s particularly worrying to see a progressive, 21st century trade union arguing that a sustainable future can be built upon forcing a single ‘anchor tenant’ customer to buy your service no matter what.  We believe the future prosperity of Openreach’s workforce depends upon creating a lively, responsive and agile organisation which can compete to meet all its customers’ needs.

The UK’s industrial relations landscape is littered with the wreckage of industries — from mining and shipbuilding to the tragedy of today’s steel industry — whose managements and unions colluded to try and maintain outmoded business structures well beyond their sell-by dates.  We really can’t afford the same thing to happen in comms.

We had hoped the CWU’s response to our 10-point plan would contain an analysis of the likely effect on Openreach workers’ conditions and morale.  We have our own views on this, and we know at least some of them are shared by a proportion of Mr Kerr’s members.  Instead, we have a series of largely unsubstantiated comments and speculations that sound more like something from BT Corporate Affairs.  

We are told, for example, that separating Openreach "will restrict broadband coverage and undermine quality of service improvements.”  But with no explanation how present and projected levels of broadband coverage are functions of Openreach’s corporate ownership model.

All the signatories to the 10-point plan want to see a successful, prosperous and responsive Openreach with happy and well motivated employees and contented customers.  We have not seen this under the present corporate structure;  indeed, we do not believe it is possible under the present corporate structure.  So we are proposing some changes which we believe can deliver real results with minimal disruption.  All business life is change.  We very much hope Andy Kerr and his members will join us in working to delivering that change.

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