Ofcom has started another review into how BT effects the UK telecoms market, so 10 years after the first review. At the same time the CMA are looking at it's plans to buy EE.
This regulatory overview gives a chance to review how BT operates in the UK and what could be done to improve things. Since the Privatisation of British Telecom the market has failed to offer an effective competitor rather it has seen a race to the bottom.
Consumers in the UK have been very poorly served when it comes to keep up with Continental rivals when it comes to Infrastructure. Whilst the cable industry did attempt to build out an alternative network it failed to do so with a sustainable business model and so we are faced with the situation that more households are not pasted by Virgin Media than are. The provider of the last resort is thus BT and as such is highly regulated with an obligation to wholesale network access to rivals.
Thirty years ago Britain got its first mobile networks, one of those had access to enough rooftops to build infrastructure needed up until 2000 thanks to it's only property portfolio and captive business accounts. The other was Vodafone, a small start up based at the end of the Thames Valley with a sleepy parent focused on the defence industry. Yet because BT focused on doing things that impeded its rival rather than do what was needed they failed so sceptically that they were forced to divest the Mobile business.
When it comes to the Broadband business it has repeated the same mistakes, rather than invest in the Network so that it was the best possible it has played games with rivals seeking to do just enough to avoid sanction. We thus find ourselves in the UK operating behind the curve when it comes to digital services because of slow speeds and over capacity.
The last review took Ofcom two years to complete and saw the creation of Openreach as an effective remedy. Hindsight has proved that the actions have not worked and BT rivals are now asking for the business to be spun off from it's parent in an effort to improve capital investment. Such a option will not solve the investment lag rather it will make it worse.
I saw recent analysis of the performance of BT shares over the last fifteen years which highlight that the Management had managed to offer a negative return of some 20+% one of the worse performance with the FTSE 100. Thus shareholder seem just as ineffectual as regulators to force the Executives to run the business.