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BT CEO contemplates moves into healthcare and drone sectors

In a recent interview BT CEO Philip Jansen offered some insights into his thinking about the near-term strategy for the UK telecoms group.

Talking to The Mail, Jansen (pictured) expressed interest in the potential offered by the digital healthcare sector for companies like his. In an apparent bid to give its headline-writers something juicy to work with, the piece talks about taking Apple and Google, but Jansen seems more focused on public sector opportunities, especially the NHS.

“What we need to do is find a way where there is accelerated take-up of some of these technologies to get the benefits that are so obviously there,” said Jansen. The Covid pandemic has pushed healthcare infrastructure to the top of the political agenda and the UK has taken the opportunity to demonstrate, once more, that it’s rubbish at the technological side of it.

So there’s clearly room for improvement and, with its clear ties to the UK public sector, BT is in as good a position as any company to help with that. It’s already involved in a trial using smart bracelets that track a person’s movements an d activities in order to alert remoter carers. You would think BT’s main contributions would be in the areas of connectivity and IoT, but maybe Jansen fancies a go at the hardware too.

Another area of diversification Jansen has his eye on is drones. In December BT was part of a consortium lobbying for an ‘air corridor’ to be created that would allow them to muck about with drones to their heart’s content. Once more this seems to be a public sector play, with talk of using them to assist the emergency services. The ultimate hope, expressed in the interview, is for the law to change to allow their use beyond line-of-sight of the controller.

Other than that, the most intriguing nugget to come from the interview was the possibility of BT flogging some of its interest in its semi-autonomous wholesale arm Openreach. Jansen stressed that BT is alright for cash at the moment, but the cost of rolling out fibre and the sword of Damocles that is its pension fund could change that, resulting in a rethink of ways to raise some cash.

As we were publishing this story BT issued the press release below, which the Jansen interview was presumably arranged to support.

 

BT fibres up network of Covid-19 Vaccination Centres to help NHS protect the public

  • News comes as NHS announces that 15 million people have received first dose of Covid-19 vaccine across UK
  • BT playing active role in helping NHS achieve this important milestone by connecting more than one hundred vaccination centres to high-speed connectivity and Wi-Fi – in record time

Monday 15 February 2021 – Engineers and IT experts from BT have played a vital role in helping the NHS deliver the biggest vaccination programme in its history, by bringing high-speed fibre and Wi-Fi connectivity to more than 110 vaccination centres across England and Wales.

The rapid roll-out of BT’s high-speed network to these sites has played a critical part in helping the NHS to reach its target of offering the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to everyone in its top four priority groups, with over 15 million people taking up the offer so far. BT is working to connect hundreds more vaccination centres over the coming days and weeks, as the NHS continues to roll-out life-saving first and second doses to the UK population.

Since Christmas Eve, BT’s Enterprise business, together with its infrastructure partner, Openreach, has worked at breakneck speed to get sites connected within a matter of days. BT has so far connected over 110 NHS vaccination centres to full fibre broadband and managed Wi-Fi, bringing ultrafast, reliable and secure connectivity to staff.

With the new vaccination centres each capable of delivering thousands of vaccinations every week, reliable Wi-Fi connections are essential in helping the NHS to roll out the vaccine as quickly as possible. This allows clinicians to easily access and update patients’ vaccination and medical records via secure mobile devices, no matter which part of the building they are working in.

BT has also prioritised the connection of smaller NHS vaccination centres across England, and numerous sites in Wales. The company is also providing enhanced levels of customer service to any vaccination centres which rely on BT, EE or Plusnet products. A dedicated 0800 number has been set up to allow NHS staff to report any issues with network services so that BT can resolve problems as quickly as possible.

Rob Shuter, CEO of BT’s Enterprise business, said: “We’re tremendously proud to have played such an active role in getting the NHS vaccination centres across England and Wales up and running. As a critical enabler for the country, we know how vital high-speed, reliable and secure connectivity is for the smooth running of our essential public services, and that’s never been more important. We’ll continue to prioritise urgent work for the NHS to help their incredible front-line staff to save lives and protect the public.

“I’d like to thank the teams across BT and Openreach who have worked tirelessly to design a brand-new service, import equipment from key suppliers and get more than one hundred sites up and running, often within just a few days.”

BT has been putting the needs of the NHS and the public health effort first throughout the pandemic, having played a role in connecting all eight Nightingale Hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as mass testing centres. A number of NHS bodies have used its Smart Messaging platform to relay Covid-19 related patient communications and appointment reminders, while its network of Street Hub units across the country are displaying the latest advice from Public Health England.

BT Group’s mobile network EE, has also supported NHS workers throughout the pandemic by gifting them unlimited data. Since launching in April last year, more than 300,000 NHS staff are benefitting from unlimited data on the UK’s most reliable mobile network. This is in addition to the 20 per cent discount that EE already offers NHS staff on their monthly line rental for their mobiles and tablets when they join or upgrade directly with EE.

BT’s Ian Hammond, who was recently awarded an MBE in recognition of his work in connecting vital NHS services during the pandemic, commented: “We’ve seen an incredible effort from across the company to get the vaccination centres up and running in record time. Since the start of our roll-out during the Christmas period, our teams have put their heart and soul into building a completely new network to connect these NHS sites, with more than 50 people and 220 man days of engineering visits so far to complete the work. With more orders being placed by the NHS for additional sites – often at short notice – we’ll continue to play our part in supporting the NHS in accelerating the roll out of the vaccine.”


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