The measure of a great company is its staying power and reach. Much has been written about an organisation’s capacity to survive, and whether there is some formulaic manner of securing survival. Pursuing some formula, or approaching organisational analysis in a formulaic is a fool’s errand. Every company has its unique story and journey. British Telecom Group’s (BT) story is interwoven within the development of United Kingdom’s history and the larger development of telecommunications.
BT Group is the world’s oldest telecommunications company. Originally established in 1846, and known as the Electronic Telecommunications Corporation, BT began to build a national infrastructure. BT Telecommunications reaches thousands of people each day through its various residential and commercial products. BT Openreach is a segmented servicing arm of BT Telecom that provides commercial and residential connectivity to the United Kingdom’s telephone access lines. Openreach also maintains the telecommunication infrastructure which is tasked with ensuring that 570 sub-corporations can provide their respective customers with accessibility in an ongoing and dependable manner.
This article will focus on the historical roots of BT and summarise that organisation's formation and development. BT’s current target audience will be analysed along with BT’s current product offerings and deals. This article will conclude with recent events and a brief summary of current financial and legal developments affecting BT. Let us begin with the company’s journey form an obscure technological advancement to the provision of everyday products and services.
BT’s history illustrates the disruption caused in a society when new technology is introduced, and the historic tension between private and public sector provision of services. It all began in New York City.
To be clear the first transcontinental telephone call was made between Mr Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born scientist, who was on the sending line in New York City and Mr Thomas A. Watson who was on the receiving line in San Francisco, California. The line traversed the vast North American continent achieving communication in a drastically cheap manner. Here is a little context. Before this phone call telecommunications revolved around the telegraph. Telegraphs relied on an expensive network of wires that were drastically limited in the amount of information that they could carry, from end to end. In 1874, Mr Bell was conducting a series of experiments in Canada that resulted in the transmission of various sound waves in one line. This transmission was desirable for several reasons. Building the infrastructure needed to transmit end-to-end telegraphic messages was expensive and necessary. It was expensive because of the limitations that the cables had at the time. It was necessary because global economy was rapidly industrialising. Vast populations were in the employ of companies located in densely population urban centres, and international trade was increasing. Both trends were placed an inordinate demand on the communication infrastructure, pushing the need for fast and efficient communication. This was the push to invent a new effective mode of communication as fast as possible.
This nascent technology found its way into the United Kingdom in 1878. Mr Bell introduced Queen Victoria to the phone call during a demonstration in the Isle of Wright. Soon after, the first British telephone was installed and granted a license by the General Post Office. At that time the General Post office oversaw administrative matters needed to advance the reach of this technology. Mr David Moseley and engineer through his company Mosley and Sons were extended the license to connect and experiment with the technology. They conducted a series of phone calls between premises of a merchant in Manchester. Soon the number of installed telephones within the country grew exponentially. This led to the need to create a method of centralising telecommunications by using telephone exchanges. Telephone exchanges were a way of literally connecting phone lines together and were operated by a team of several individuals. A person would normally ring the line, ask to be connected to the certain region, and the line would be connected. London was home to the first exchange, which opened its doors in August of 1879. An exchange in Lancashire known as the Lancashire Telephonic Exchange was opened in Manchester shortly after that.
Private companies such as the National Telephone Company provided phone services in the United Kingdom from the late 1870’s until 1912. The General Post Office entered the phone business in the late 1880’s and began to provide services. This led to the collapse of the private phone industry ushering in what would be almost a century of government involvement in the general English phone industry.
On July of 1982, the Government of the United Kingdom formally announced that it would privatise British Telecommunications. The government followed its announcement with the sale of over half of the BT’s shares on the open market. The move toward privatisation followed the passage and ratification of the Telecommunications Act of 1984. British Telecommunications PLC subsequently housed the operational business of British Telecommunications. Up to this point in history, BT was a legislative or statutory entity.
Originally, privatisation was designed and intended to make BT more competitive, both domestically and globally.
The 1984 Act abolished BT’sdomestic telecommunications monopoly and established a framework to establish and encourage a domestic competitive landscape. These legal and legislative developments happened against the backdrop of a rapidly growing technological landscape. Growth in portability and the demands for accessibility grew exponentially throughout the nineties and into the two thousand. In additional to sheer demand for communication, the demand for a diverse set of communications during this period also exploded. Immigration from around the globe into the United Kingdom brought with it new tastes and the demand for new products. BT grew to meet these challenges and constantly grows to respond to customer demands.
BT’s journey and product segmentation carefully document the growth of an industry, a nation, and our understanding of technology. On the horizon are new challenges, questions as to how automation will change the role that telecommunications play in our everyday lives; how will wearable technology change our interaction with health care providers? These questions pose new challenges, and unchartered disruptions lie behind them.
The discussion in this section will focus on the various products and services offered by BT in general and Openreach specifically. More information on these products and services can be located on the Company’s website, here. Openreach (OR) has a range of Network, Engineering, and Management solutions advertised on their site. OR’s engineering services are tailored for every type of engineering project from bespoke to advanced networking solutions. Management solutions are tailored to those with diverse business needs.
However, for those with more immediate needs, BT offers a wide range of broadband, television, and service connectivity solutions for an economic cost. These services are generally geared toward young professionals (residential services) and small business (commercial services). A detailed summary of what BT offers is located on its corporate page and can be found here.
For those in search of Residential Services BT has three main product lines available. These are titled Unlimited Broadband, Unlimited Infinity 1, and Unlimited Infinity 2. Each product is mainly differentiated by the connectivity speed offered. Each product offering will be discussed separately below and the prices mentioned are based on current offerings as of the date of this publication.
The Unlimited Broadband includes speed up to seventeen megabits of connectivity; monthly usage is unlimited. BT also includes cloud storage of for free up to one hundred gigabytes. Customer service for this product offering is free until the 31st of July. This service requires a one-year contract and will cost thirty-three pounds per month. BT Openreach is a segmented servicing arm of BT Telecom that provides commercial and residential connectivity to the United Kingdom’s telephone access lines. Openreach also maintains the telecommunication infrastructure which is tasked with ensuring that 570 sub-corporations can provide their respective customers with accessibility in an ongoing and dependable manner.
Unlimited Infinity One is similar to its counterparts. It also requires a one-year twelve-month contract, and it costs forty Pounds a month. This offering includes increased speeds (fifty-two megabits), unlimited monthly usage and the same amount of cloud storage. Online security is also guaranteed along with access to a specialised customer service line.
Unlimited Infinity 2 increases speeds, up to seventy-six megabits and cloud storage, five hundred megabytes per year. It also includes the customer care service line and additional BT smart hub access for only forty-nine Pounds a month. These commercial phone services range from offering guaranteed security, cloud storage, and access to a dedicated customer service line. This combination of product service offerings is unique in an industry that is increasingly cold and removed.
BT offers businesses a large array of Apple products, BT Cloud Voice, service packages, and phone line features. Information about BT and its business offerings can be located at its commercial site here.
BT business also offers wireless coverage and an extensive network for both commercial and residential uses. For customers that are looking for reliable business or commercial usage, BT business boasts of increased email and file exchange rates. These increases are because BT offers coverage through its four-g network. There may be some who are reading this wondering what four g is. 4-G means fourth generation mobile network. In the United Kingdom, fourth generation connectivity launched in 2012, and it is the means by which a majority of the nation’s smartphones are connected. Some of the benefits of the fourth generation (4G) connectivity in a business setting include; increased download speed and increased coverage areas. Currently, BT’s business network leverages the resources available to BT’s general 4G network, with coverage of over ninety-five percent of the United Kingdom.
BT has seven small service lines specifically designed for small businesses, two of them have been supplemented with increased speed. The discussion below will analyse each of these offerings in more detail. Note, that each service offering, like the commercial products, are differentiated in speed with the caveat that commercial products consist of additional offers (such as a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office and PC support).
BT offers both commercial and residential service packages, and Openreach maintains the fibre optic infrastructure of the United Kingdom. BT was first established in the 1840’s and has reshaped itself throughout the years. BT was a statutory entity for much of the last century, as it grew to illustrate the public versus private capital debates that defined much of economics in the 1900s. In 1982, however, the legal structure that ensured BT’s monopoly was undermined, and BT was quickly privatised. Today, British Telecommunications PLC touches the lives of people throughout the world; either through it is various commercial and residential products or through its charitable initiatives in developing nations. BT is headquartered in London, in a ten story building on 81 Newgate. It is organised into six divisions. BT Global Services provides telecommunication and technological services to multinational corporations. BT business is charged with the provision of retail telecom and IT support to U.K. based corporations. BT Consumer provides consumer broadband and wireless services to individuals. EE was recently acquired and provides mobile and fixed communication services to private and public entities. BT Whole Sale provides operational support for BT’s networks. Openreach provides infrastructure support and management. Globally, BT employs 102,000 people, it has sales revenue of 18.91 Billion U.S. Dollars and has grown 5.1 percent over the previous year.
Broadband represents the basic package and comes in at twelve pounds a month and a thirty pound one off charge. Please note, that these estimates do not include the tax on local services and that you are encouraged to seek the assistance of a local BT service vendor. Under the basic broadband service line, you are guaranteed 17 Mbps download speeds with a maximum upload speed of up to 1 Mbps; usage is limited to ten gigabytes per month. Unlimited Broadband offers similar services but waives the one-off service fee and usage is not limited to 10 gigabytes per month but unlimited. The unlimited Broadband will cost nineteen pounds per month. For an additional six Pounds, customers can receive a subscription to Microsoft 365 and PC support, within the Premium Broadband selection.
As discussed earlier, there are two services that have been augmented (as far as speed is concerned), these are; Infinity (20.00 Pounds per month) and Unlimited Infinity( 35.00 Pounds per month). Both options offer download speeds of 76 Mbps and upload speeds of 19 Mbps. However, Gigabyte usage is limited in the Infinity by fifty gigabytes per month, whereas Unlimited Infinity eliminated this gigabyte limits. Also, Unlimited Infinity includes PC support. Both Infinity and Unlimited Infinity options include PC support. The final service category for commercial users is the BT Leased Line.
These commercial options come with the following; a BT business Hub 5 wireless router, access to BT’s networked of hot spots located throughout the United Kingdom, twenty-four-hour broadband support, plus twenty-four-hour PC support when it is included as part of the package.
BT Leased Lines is meant for those companies that depend on the internet connectivity. The benefit of having a leased line is that it functions as just that, a line of the internet. This can seem like a nuanced point and is discussed separately because it is a unique service. A bit of background is in order. Internet connectivity is shared amongst several companies and people. Therefore speeds and download/upload speeds vary throughout out the day. Anyone who has been frustrated by the “buffering” rainbow wheel knows the frustration that varying speed quality causes. BT created an additional service offering because in today’s economy there are businesses whose entire model depends on connectivity. Think about it. More and more employees work remotely; customer data must be exchanged in heavier chunks more rapidly. Not to mention that stocks and other equities are being traded by the nanosecond via trading platforms that rely on constant and secure connectivity. This economic activity has culminated in BT’s leased line offering. It is a dedicated line, of varying speeds. Specifically, BT offers three general speeds within this category Ethernet First Mile (2Mbps to 30Mbps), Generic Ethernet Access-GEA (35Mbps), and Ethernet Fibre (35 Mbps). These offerings also include ultra-low latency periods, resilience options, and additional support.
Whatever option is selected; the customer will receive one to one fully dedicated service with a guarantee that the respective office or small business will never have to share their access line. Also included in this general offer is a guarantee of one-hundred percent target SLA. The customer receives a guarantee from BT that if service fails, for whatever reason, they customer will receive their money back guaranteed. Also included is an extension and guarantee that symmetric download and upload speeds will be maintained. This is a crucial offering or those that depend on cloud, web hosting, streaming or sharing; and a dedicated self-regulated CISCO router.
The United Kingdom boasts of some of the best connectivity rates in the world. Connectivity rates in the U.K. dwarf Continental rates and its quality surpass regional rates in the United States. There are however, a unique set of challenges that toward to ensuring consistently better connectivity at a national level. Primarily, connectivity in rural areas lags urban areas, for obvious reasons. The divide between urban and rural connectivity rates has morphed from a commercial concern to a systematic threat.
Our continued economic growth is interwoven into the continued availability of secure and viable internet connectivity. Citizens of rural areas require additional attention because their education, market access, and quality of life depend on connectivity. Also, rural networks are subject to specific strains placed on fibre optics by changes in climate, and raising water levels. In order to address these challenges, the government issued a set of projects and investments meant to improve the national network.
Openreach has been the beneficiary of this national investment ( an estimate three billion pounds earmarked for extension of national fibre network). Our national goal is ambitious and simple, it is to vastly improve national connectivity (or the extension of superfast networks) to include ninety-five percent of all households and U.K. residence by the end of 2017. This means that by the end of this year more than twenty-six million homes and businesses will have broadband internet. Openreach is helping achieve this, by dedicating manpower and leveraging its resources in a collective effort that is currently adding twenty thousand homes to the national network each day. The scale of this national project is massive, both in reach and ambition. But, if there is anyone that can do it, it is us. The United Kingdom, if successful will serve as an example of how to utilise market forces and public cooperation toward the achievement of national goal.
There is an innate tendency in us all to seek support and interaction. Philosophers and historians have long commented on the benefits of socialising and communicating within our respective groups. Communication, they say, is the hallmark of cooperation and cooperation has meant survival. From the moment that Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental phone call, our world has been getting smaller and quicker to traverse. This “flattening” of the global economy has added a continual string of challenges to our infrastructure. Today, more than ever, our need to connect with one another is essential to our survival.BT’s history illustrates the disruption caused in a society when new technology is introduced, and the historic tension between private and public sector provision of services. It all began in New York City.
To be clear the first transcontinental telephone call was made between Mr Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born scientist, who was on the sending line in New York City and Mr Thomas A. Watson who was on the receiving line in San Francisco, California. The line traversed the vast North American continent achieving communication in a drastically cheap manner. Here is a little context. Human cooperation --- flexible human cooperation --- will be needed so that we can feed a growing population and address the challenges of global climate change. That is why infrastructure is vital. Fibre optic connectivity is will continue to usher in the new era of human cooperation. It will be no mistake that one personal alone will not solve the devastation of rising sea level, nor will one person cure the cancer. Rather, it will be crowd of us together, from all walks of life, scattered throughout the world but connected. The services that BT and Openreach offer, the maintenance and dedication to the future of fibre optics that U.K. has demonstrated will help usher in this new era.