Thought for the Day:Time for a communications shakedown

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day. At a recent industry gathering, I turned up...

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day. At a recent industry gathering, I turned up along with 200 telecoms executives to hear four luminaries talk about how to make money from telecoms.

They needn't have bothered because we know the answer - you can't!

So instead, they talked about why they don't make money from telecoms. And the culprit was Oftel and BT. Of course it's all their fault.

Sorry? Wasn't Mercury in the habit of saying that in the 1980s, and wasn't that the complaint up until around 1994, just as the dotcoms began to bloom?

Am I jumping to conclusions? But up until about a year or so ago, suspiciously while there was plenty of money around, nothing much was heard from our telco demigods. Now there's suddenly the sound of bleating. Could this be connected?

So, as reality sets in, it's the regulator's turn to take the blame because he's too cosy with BT. It's all about broadband (of course it would be, as this lot have capacity in spades). They have realised that Britain needs broadband - but BT and Oftel are stopping broadband.

Where were these crusaders when the user groups were trying to get the industry to focus on broadband in 1999? Too busy looking at graphs that forever went upwards, perhaps?

But someone in the audience at the meeting hit the nail on the head. She asked these plutocrats of POTS (the Plain Old Telephone System): "Why didn't they partner before the liquidators did it for them?"

There was much huffing and puffing, but the answer was that no one else's network would be good enough and, anyway, it wasn't telco culture to share.

So it's a macho thing; you're not a real man if you're not running your own network.

I'd say the answer is ego.

Oh, and overheads. The room where we had our meeting would have contained all the executives needed to run UK telecoms a few years back.

Now I guess we make do with two orders of magnitude more, plus the offices and support (count the Jags parked along Victoria Embankment where Energis has its HQ). Might this mean there are too many of them?

Do you think it is time for a telco meltdown?>>

Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

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