BT denies Vodafone's allegations. Counter-claiming that delays to provisioned work fall largely under the terms of "deemed consent"; delays which BT can justify as unavoidable. Vodafone disputes this, alleging that BT has engineered loopholes. Arguing that many of the grounds cited for those delays were, in fact, of BT's own making. Further, that the delays were spurious; deliberately introduced to undermine the functional operation of Vodafone and other rivals. Ultimately damaging competition in the sector.
This week, Ofcom issued its provisional conclusions to Vodafone's complaints. Determining that in five out of seven categories which Ofcom assessed, BT was found in breach of its obligations. Failing "to provide its services on fair and reasonable terms; as soon as reasonably practicable; and on such terms as Ofcom may from time to time direct"
Ofcom has invited all parties to respond by late-November before issuing its final conclusion. If Vodafone's complaints are upheld, BT could be forced to pay millions of pounds in compensation. According to The Times, Vodafone also wants the regulator to take greater oversight of ethernet services, preventing Openreach in the future from choosing which delays are beyond its control.
From The Times ("BT accused of hiding broadband failures; Ofcom opens investigation into Openreach delays"; 10 Sept 2015):
Vodafone has calculated that 71 per cent of all orders for ethernet products completed by Openreach were delayed, with new fibre builds rife with service issues between 2011 and 2014.
Ofcom said that only 45 per cent of all ethernet commissions were connected on time last year, although that number could include legitimate delays to installations.
The issue has wider implications for the industry, with calls for Openreach to be split from BT reaching fever pitch
This feels all too familiar. Another case of déjà vu in which costly initial overheads, and delaying 'choke-points' have been artificially introduced by BT into its service commissioning process. Choke-points which can then be used in plausibly deniable fashion to stall the roll-out of services by rival competitors. Standard operating procedure for BT, some may argue.
It's perhaps insightful that Vodafone is the protagonist in this latest round of complaints against BT. The cellular operator is also leading the calls for Openreach to be split-off from the wider BT Group. Virgin Media has since dropped out of that fight; withdrawing its own objections towards Openreach remaining part of BT. Cautious, perhaps, that its own cable infrastructure could potentially fall under focus for the same reasons.
Vodafone has also been linked as a potential suitor for TalkTalk, the embattled fixed-wire telco. In proposals that would see the two operators combining assets to become a major competitor in the 'quad-play' market. offering cellular, fixed-wire, internet and pay-tv.
TalkTalk is particularly vulnerable to takeover; its reputation damaged by a high-profile if minor breach of its customer account details. The company's share price has almost halved in recent months. Falling from 408.8p in early June to just 214.25p at close today.
With Vodafone beefing up its rhetoric against BT, perhaps mindful of that possible buy-out of TalkTalk. Through its 2012 acquisition of fixed-wire infrastructure from C&W, and through the launch of its own fibre broadband services, intending to become a potent force of its own in the lucrative "quad-play" market. By market-share, measured by combined fixed-wire and cellular customers, potentially becoming BT's nearest rival. BT has already secured preliminary approval for its acquisition of cellular operator EE, and launched its own streaming sports package late 2013.
Edited by edwincluck (Tue 10-Nov-15 01:19:54)