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Breaking up of BT must be applied locally, insists Belfast telecoms firm

By Holly Williams

Published 30/11/2016

Ofcom has said a more independent Openreach is vital to improving services across the UK
Ofcom has said a more independent Openreach is vital to improving services across the UK

An order forcing BT to legally separate from its Openreach network arm must be extended to Northern Ireland, a local telecoms company has claimed.

The intervention came after regulator Ofcom said it was disappointed" with BT's proposals since outlining plans in July to make Openreach a "distinct company" within the group.

The watchdog will now trigger formal proceedings with the European Commission to force the legal separation from Openreach, which develops and maintains the telecoms network used by telephone and broadband providers such as Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and more.

But Ofcom stopped short of forcing a full break-up and sale of Openreach, and said it remained "open" to further proposals from BT for a voluntary separation of the division.

However, B4B Telecoms, a business telecoms provider based in Belfast, said it would write to Ofcom to request that the finding be applied here.

Openreach does not officially operate locally, with BT's Northern Ireland Networks instead carrying out the group's services and work.

Dominic Kearney, managing director of B4B Telecoms, called for a more level playing field.

"Locally, BT retains a higher level of market share than in Great Britain, and it could be argued that the lack of separation creates an unfair advantage to the retail arm of BT," he said.

"Ofcom needs to support an environment of competitiveness and ensure that services provided to us as independent providers are of the highest quality demanded by all our customers."

An spokesman for Ofcom said any changes had yet to be decided. "The future arrangements in Northern Ireland are part of our ongoing discussions with BT," they explained.

UK-wide, Ofcom said a more independent Openreach was vital to improving services.

BT insisted it was implementing measures it put forward in July to address the regulator's concerns, and still hoped to reach a voluntary settlement.

Belfast Telegraph

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