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BT and Virgin tell moaners to back off with broadband bromance

Deal business partnership bro

If anyone needs a friend right now, it’s BT. Luckily, it seems to have found a new BFF in the unlikely form of rival network owner Virgin Media.

Embattled BT has faced non-stop stick this year over its ownership of Openreach, and it has finally found an industry ally after yonks of bickering, sniping and brow beating from its rivals/wholesale customers.

After a series of fruity exchanges, Ofcom ruled that Openreach will become a separate legal entity from BT, but somehow still part of the parent group. Wait… what?

Regardless of the logic, or lack thereof, a pretty petty points-scoring exercise from Vodafone, TalkTalk and Sky ensued. This was tantamount to: “here’s why BT are evil and we’re great, and how dare they buy football rights when the good honest hard-working folk of Britain are being ripped off with sucky broadband.”

You can read the ranty website here, although it has been tempered somewhat since BT CEO Gavin Hasselhoff Patterson told them to get their facts straight before being whiney little ponies.

That’s the story to date. In September’s episode of the soap opera, Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge told BT it’s got a friend in Virgin, much like Woody and Buzz of Toy Story fame.

That statement is pretty ambiguous to be fair, but the title of the above tweet shows they’ve at least “teamed up”.

Moral support is groovy, but Mockridge and Virgin are planning a groovier kind of love, with a national ad campaign rolling out this week telling everyone to back off. That’s paraphrased from the Telegraph, by the way.

The campaign will run across the decent national newspapers, apparently, and will say combined Virgin/Openreach investment over the past five years has topped £15 billion, and that separating Openreach will see that drop markedly.

Toy Story Buzz WoodyVirgin, of course, has its own interest in keeping Openreach under BT because it’s having a pretty good time of it at the moment. It plans on building out more of its network to reach two thirds of homes and business in the UK by 2020, but it’s waiting to do so while Ofcom gathers the complaints from Openreach wholesale customers and figures out what to do next. It could be the case that separation of BT and Openreach will harm investment in fibre broadband, thus reducing the level of return Virgin will get on any investment in its own infrastructure.

The flourishing bromance shows BT has finally got an ally. With Virgin covering its back, will it be to infinity and beyond for BT, or will it just be falling with a little bit of style? Athankyou!


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