1/29/2009 9:42:00 AM
Timing is awful, but the issue is vital
Speculation that BT is making a third attempt to crack the mobile market highlights just how cornered it has become in telecoms. Despite being the leader in the broadband market, BT knows mobile is where the money is. It has also dragged the anvil of being the sole entity to fulfil the Government’s target of broadband and communication to everyone in the country.
Democratising communication services has become a vital social issue, with signs emerging of a ‘digital divide’ opening up. It is no exaggeration to say that access to broadband and mobile communications has quickly moved from a luxury to economic, social and cultural necessity, with those excluded potentially falling out of mainstream society. With that context, O2 CEO Ronan Dunne said at the end of last year that the Government will be looking at the telecoms industry to stimulate the economy out of the recession, especially since the finance sector (once 20% of our economy) is in such a parlous state.
That is why Stephen Carter’s report is so important. It is likely to include new costs to mobile operators. These will be particularly unwelcome at a time when competition is greater than ever and growth has stalled. But it is entirely reasonable for BT to request that mobile operators start contributing to the Government’s objectives.
The days when BT was the goliath of the telecoms industry are long gone, and the new services and competitive landscape of the market are entirely different to even five years ago. Even within the mobile operators there are several agendas that are likely to clash, so Carter is likely to have his work cut out between now and June in allaying concerns and finding compromises.