back to article TalkTalk boss on Joe Garner exit, Virgin Media support for Openreach and THAT attack

TalkTalk boss Dido Harding has described the departure of BT Openreach’s chief Joe Garner as a big headache for the former state monopoly – which is in the midst of battling to retain the infrastructure wing of its business. Garner resigned on Monday, having been poached by Nationwide to head up the building society. Speaking …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin Media vs wholesale

    "The challenge on Virgin Media as a viable, alternative infrastructure provider is that they have no wholesale haul and a system stack that makes its extremely difficult for unbundlers to connect with"

    Well, Dido, what makes you think that VM have any interest in sharing their own infrastructure with other companies? If they had, you'd have an offer on the table already.

    If I was VM I wouldn't do wholesale either, unless I was desperate to make coins. It's their unique selling point to have their own broadband/fibre infrastructure. You don't give that away just because less capable companies haven't managed to build anything similar; and given the regulatory pressure you expose yourself to when you allow others to piggyback on your infrastructure, you try to steer clear if you can.

    Of course that's hard to grasp for companies that wouldn't be able to offer any broadband at all if BT wholesale didn't enable them to. For BT it makes sense, because it was a former state monopoly. Virgin don't have that sort of heritage and don't per se owe the country or other ISP anything.

  2. Bob H

    It would be interesting if VM did wholesale their broadband at least, not in an LLU kind of way but in the old school virtual operator way. Then you would see other players delivering MPEG4 IPTV over DOCSIS 3.0 competing with VM's mostly MPEG-2 DVB-C + DOCSIS network.

  3. Flywheel


    How about Talktalk get a slightly cheaper Head Honcho but hire a couple of white-hat hackers to do the pen testing etc, then they might get a more secure system.

  4. tiggity Silver badge

    ISP CEO who knows FA about IT bemoans the quitting of another CEO who knows FA about IT (but both know about coining it in whilst not being v. good).

    Quoth Dildo, "The last two chief executives of Openreach wanted to run a big, public company, and any decent candidate will want to do the same"

    From my plebpoint, a decent candidate would actually have a clue about IT and infrastructure issues and be aiming to improve things, the big public company factor should be fairly irrelevant, it should be about being competent and doing a good job whatever the company.

    But that POV is one of the many, many reasons (e.g. a liking for the truth)) I'm not a CEO ..

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Discuss with examples

    Company boss with nolittle credibility following IT cockup comments on management of another company.

    Use both sides of the paper (if necessary).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why on earth is anyone asking Dido Harding, the head of an infrastructure-less ISP about Openreach exec management?.She certainly wouldn't be able to run that business, as has been demonstrated by her farcical, incompetent and disingenuous handling of major failings within her own organisation. People standing in smashed glass houses shouldn't throw stones or advise others on how to hire a gardener

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "We asked the TalkTalk boss what she had made of Virgin Media's chief Tom Mockridge recently coming out in support of Openreach remaining wedded to BT."

    Was that really the best question you could have asked her? How about "Shouldn't the next head of a telecoms company like Openreach be someone with an engineering backgorund rather than another banker?".

    1. Richard Taylor 2

      But we know the answer to that would be 'don't be silly, don't you know how this business is run?'

      1. Captain DaFt

        'don't be silly, don't you know how this business is run?'

        And the snap response would be, "Yes, very poorly, by a bunch of wankers whose only skill is a dubious one for shuffling money around in a way that only profits themselves."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ""Shouldn't the next head of a telecoms company like Openreach be someone with an engineering backgorund rather than another banker?"."

      I don't know. The engineering is largely settled - telcos have 100 years plus experience of running last mile networks - and BT's the oldest surviving telco of them all.

      The challenge for Openreach and Virgin, and for others in similar positions worldwide is that the market's desire for ever faster broadband isn't matched by the market's desire to actually pay a fair price for it. That's a challenge far better suited to a numbers women or man to puzzle over. It needs long and careful negotiations with regulators and financiers to make it work.

      If Openreach was split from BT I think Virgin's days as a network operator would be numbered, the sensible management call would be to shut or freeze their network the very next day and use Openreach's network instead. There's maybe some value that could be extracted by selling the network to Openreach, but other than that it would be finished. That wouldn't help much to promote infrastructure competition in the UK's last mile and so would drive telecoms back toward a monopoly instead of away from it. Only firms with deep pockets, access to cheap credit and patient investors can afford to spend £2K deploying network to a customer that will take a decade to payback. If you lease someone else's network the profit from a customer starts on day one, not ten years later.

      TL:DR - The challenge with rolling out new broadband technologies in the last mile isn't technical, it's commercial. Most paths lead to bankruptcy. Running Openreach must be a spectacularly hard job.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Running Openreach must be a spectacularly hard job.

        Not at all. They are a weakly regulated monopoly. As such the regulator wants them to earn a return on their capital, the weakness of the regulator means that they can earn better-than-utility returns through the lack of transparency, and avoid any particularly harsh or difficult obligations. Running Openreach is simply a combination of three things: (1) Some lacklustre project management to roll out FTTC where it suits BT or where the government will throw money to extend the network, (2) minimalist asset maintenance on the network, and (3) obsessive cost control (even where that hurts customers). In a properly regulated monopoly there would be an additional strand of playing the regulatory game (regulatory negotiation, reporting and performance management) but as OFCOM are so firmly "captured" there's no need for this in telecoms.

        I've worked for a number of regulated non-telecoms businesses, and I can assure you that all of them would have LOVED a timid, weak, compliant, dim regulator like OFCOM.

  8. Martin Summers

    So long as it isn't her that ends up as his replacement I'm not fussed who does!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El Reg: "Instead she appeared to conflate the two issues and said she was unable to speak about specifics"

    me: "until she explains what happened and how on earth they can claim they are not in breach of the Supply of Goods and Services Act, I am unable to pay their bills."

  10. Alan Brown Silver badge

    VM vs Openreach

    VM doesn't have in-ground infrastructure which was mostly put in place by taxpayers (I'm not talking about the wires) and paid for by taxpayers, with the state exerting eminent domain to push it through areas of landowner resistance.

    More importantly, VM is not an effective monopoly over 80+% of the area of the country (Once you're out of metro areas the only game in town is usually BT and they double dip if you go to a 3rd party for leased circuits by forcing the tails to run over BT equipment.(*)

    Openreach needs to be broken off in large part to quell BT's rent-seeking behaviour.

    A BT tail means there are 2 BT chargeable endpoints (the 3rd party demarcation point and your premises) as well as the length in the middle, plus whatever is at the far end (which may well be another BT tail)

    An entirely BT circuit is only charged as 2 endpoints (the ones in your premises) plus formulaic length in the middle. The 2 endpoints on BT premises aren't charged for.

    This kind of charging structure is classic monopoly rent-seeking behaviour, where the incumbent interposes itself in 3rd party contracts to add extra wholesale charges which it doesn't charge to retail customers.

    Almost none of the line-related charging made by BT bears any relationship to the actual cost of provision. It's entirely "how much the market can bear", "undercut the competition if they show up" and creative accounting games to bluff Ofcom (who aren't accountants and it shows).

    The interesting thing is that in areas where there _is_ a BT monopoly, you'll get an immediate 50% discount if you manage to get connectivity via a 3rd party (microwave links, etc) - and as their salestwats get a commission for winning yu back from the opposition, that isn't usually offered until after you've signed up and had the 3rd party circuits delivered.

    Splitting out Openreach should be a matter for the Competition Commission and there is probably more traction in going down that route to achieve it than Ofcom, given that Ofcom's senior staff both come from and go back to telco jobs.

  11. jerehada

    Didn't Garner go to Nationwide a mutual building society? I'd say thats not the same as a large PLC.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't Garner go to Nationwide a mutual building society? I'd say thats not the same as a large PLC.

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