The Telecommunications Bill, delayed the previous year because of the General Election, received Royal Assent on 12 April and became an Act of Parliament. British Telecommunications had been incorporated as a public limited company (plc) in anticipation of the Act on 1 April. The transfer to British Telecommunications plc from British Telecom as a statutory corporation of its business, its property, rights and liabilities took place on 6 August.
Initially, all shares in the new plc were owned by the Government, but in November 50.2 per cent of the new company was offered for sale to the public and employees in this first flotation of a public utility. Shares were listed in London, New York and Toronto. British Telecom's flotation was the first of a series of privatisations of state-owned utilities throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. The company's transfer into the private sector continued in December 1991 when the Government sold around half its remaining holding of 47.6 per cent of shares reducing its stake to 21.8 per cent. Virtually all the Government's remaining shares were subsequently sold in a third flotation in July 1993, raising £5 billion for the treasury and introducing 750,000 new shareholders to the company.
In July 1997 the new Labour Government relinquished its Special Share ("Golden Share"), retained at the time of the flotation, which had effectively given it the power to block a takeover of the company, and to appoint two non-executive directors to the Board.
As a plc, British Telecom had to operate under normal company law, particularly in the manner prescribed for public limited companies. Privatisation also released the new company from the constraints of the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PSBR), allowing British Telecom greater freedom in borrowing and investment.
The 1984 Act, in addition to providing for the privatisation of British Telecom, abolished the exclusive privilege of running telecommunications systems and established a framework to safeguard the workings of competition. This meant that British Telecom finally lost its monopoly in running telecommunications systems, which it had technically retained under the 1981 Act despite the Secretary of State's licensing powers. British Telecom was now required to hold a licence to run such a system in the same way as any other telecommunications operator. The 1984 Act, in fact, made running a telecommunications system without a licence a criminal offence. The licence granted to BT lays down strict and extensive conditions affecting the range of its activities, and is subject to close scrutiny and review by the Director General of Telecommunications, the head of the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) which was set up at this time. A system of regulation in the field of telecommunications had been recommended the previous year in the Littlechild Report.
The creation of Oftel as a non-ministerial Government department to regulate the telecommunications industry completed the separation of regulatory and operational functions begun by the 1981 Act. In particular, Oftel was to promote competition in the industry and protect the rights of consumers. Oftel could achieve this by the enforcement of the various licences granted to those operating telecommunications services, employing powers defined in the 1984 Act which could include seeking licence amendments. The political responsibility for UK telecommunications policy remained with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
BT Centre, the company's new headquarters building designed by the Property Services Agency, was opened in June at 81 Newgate Street in the City of London. Construction of the building had begun in 1980 on the site of the Old Central Telegraph Office. The new design was a large granite and Portland stone building around an atrium, with its mass offset by curved corners and considerable use of glass, notably the extensive use of glazed tubular steel barrel vaults spanning the atrium. In style it is modern and forward looking, but in building materials it echoes the old GPO West - which housed the Central Telegraph Office for so many years - and the neighbouring St Paul's cathedral, also built of Portland stone. The interior of the building was extensively refurbished from 1997 to 1999 to make better use of space, conform to modern approaches to working, and exploit the latest telecommunications technology for more effective and fulfilling working.
Much larger than the building it replaced, BT Centre now completely covers the route of the old Bath Street, closed in 1934, and the site adjoining the old CTO. The main entrance of BT Centre follows the line of the lost street. Modern in design and appearance, BT Centre is a reflection of BT - a company committed to meeting today's telecommunications needs.
The first UK, and the world's largest, digital international telephone exchange was opened at Keybridge House in London on 23 May. The new exchange was supplied by Thorn Ericsson Telecommunications Ltd, and was based on the AXE10 (System Y) design. It provided an extra 13,800 lines, and could handle up to 144,000 call attempts an hour.
London's first satellite earth station was opened on a 3.5 acre site in Pier Road, North Woolwich near the old King George V Dock in Dockland. It was designed to handle two main areas of satellite telecommunications business: the demand for business services from the City and the provision of transmission facilities for satellite television and radio companies.
The Teleport began operations in February, transmitting commercial cable TV broadcasts using the European Communications Satellite (ECS). It was originally called the London North Woolwich Earth Station, but was renamed the London Teleport in April, coinciding with an official visit by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. It was opened officially in October.
The Teleport was sited in North Woolwich because, with the Thames at its southern boundary, the site was protected from any future high rise development which might impede the clear outlook required by the antennas to transmit and receive signals to and from satellites. The area was also free from any radio interference.
The London Teleport was the hub of BT's international SatStream service, videoconferencing and several other specialised satellite services from computer data transfer, facsimile transmission, telex and telephone communications over private leased lines.
Ships using INMARSAT - the maritime satellite system - could access a wide range of computers and databases round the world from 9 January through the International Packet Switching Service (IPSS) provided by British Telecom International.
International Kilostream was launched, a new digital transmission service using satellite technology especially suited to the transfer of large amounts of data to overseas destinations on a daily basis.
The world's first 140 Mbit/s single-mode optical fibre system was opened between Milton Keynes and Luton.
British Telecom's first overseas office was opened in New York.
The phone book was redesigned in conjunction with consultants Wolff Olins and relaunched as the Phone Book - first, in central Manchester in March.
Prestel received the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement.
Prestel Mailbox was introduced nationwide on 15 October.
Trainphone, the first public payphone on a train, was introduced on a trial basis on services from Paddington to South Wales and the West Country. It operated via the Cellnet network.
Slimtel was launched, the first telephone instrument designed and manufactured by British Telecom.
Voicebank voice messaging service was inaugurated.
Star Services were launched, and provided new push-button facilities such as 'repeat last call' and 'call barring'. This facility was available to customers connected to 'System X' exchanges, and began at Cheltenham on 26 January.
The first 'System X' exchange in Hull was opened on 28 November, exactly 80 years after the opening of the town's first municipal exchange.
The search for a new voice for the speaking clock ended on 5 December when Brian Cobby, an assistant supervisor in a telephone exchange at Withdean, Brighton, was selected from 12 finalists in British Telecom's Golden Voice competition.
The new speaking clock was inaugurated on 2 April 1985.
The Internet forerunner, ARPANET, was divided into two networks, one to serve the military (MILNET) and the other to support academic research (ARPANET). The US Department of Defense continued to support both networks.
Cellnet, the British Telecom and Securicor joint venture cellular radio service, was launched on 7 January. It replaced the existing radiophone service operated by British Telecom. Its competitor Racal Vodafone was also launched the same year.
The joint venture company was relaunched as BT Cellnet in 1999. In July 1999 BT announced it would be acquiring Securicor's minority stake in the joint venture.
The first new-style British Telecom shop opened in Southend-on-Sea High Street on 3 January, selling a wide range of telephones, business equipment and telephone accessories. The new shop was an extension of the existing chain of 53 phoneshops, mostly sited in department stores or in local telephone area offices.
The new speaking clock was inaugurated at 11 o'clock on 2 April when the voice of Brian Cobby replaced that of Pat Simmons, the voice of the clock for the previous 22 years. The new clock was digital and, with no moving parts, more reliable and accurate than the old equipment.
From 1 November it was possible to rent an exchange line alone from BT without having to pay rental for a telephone instrument.
Modernisation of the trunk network began with the opening of 'System X' exchanges in Birmingham, Coventry, Leeds and the City of London. The initial phase of the modernisation was completed in November 1988 with the opening of the 53rd 'System X' trunk exchange in Norwich. The last analogue trunk exchange at Thurso, Scotland was closed in July 1990 and the BT long-distance network thereby became totally digital, the first major system in the world to do so.
The first Stored Programme Control telex inland exchange was opened.
The first UK operational undersea optical fibre cable was laid, linking the Isle of Wight to the mainland across the Solent.
British Telecom trialled its first Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN).
Trials of the Linkline 0800 and 0345 services began on 12 November. An International 0800 service was opened from the United States.
Linkline was later marketed as Freefone and Lo-Call.
The Martlesham switched star cable TV and interactive services network was introduced in Westminster.
British Telecom placed an order for around £100 million in March for an AXE 10 (System Y) digital switching system to provide a competitive alternative to System X. The contract was awarded through Thorn Ericsson.
The first AXE 10 exchange was opened the following year at Sevenoaks. As well as being an alternative to System X, introduction of AXE 10 exchanges into the network allowed the modernisation programme of the network to be speeded up. AXE 10 exchanges provided the same range of extra facilities known as Star Services (later known as Select Services) as Systems X, including code calling, repeat last call, three way calling, call diversion, call waiting, call barring, reminder call and charge advice.
A £160 million payphone investment programme was launched. As part of the modernisation the new generation of telephone kiosks began to appear, the KX 100 - 400 series. The first of these new-style booths was unveiled in London's Leicester Square. They were cheaper to maintain, more resistant to vandalism and were designed to blend in with any surroundings. Special attention was paid to environmental considerations, acoustics, weather protection, lighting and ventilation after intensive market research was conducted into customers' needs. Constructed in a variety of designs they were hardwearing and contained paint-free finishes of anodised aluminium and stainless steel. They were also fitted with sound proofing, vandal-resistant panelling and improved lighting. The designs assisted customers with disabilities and allowed access to wheelchair users.
The modernisation programme was completed in 1988. The UK's public payphone system had not been amongst the most efficient in the world, but in the 1988 Quality of Service report it was listed as having a 96 per cent reliability. This success rate continued, compared to only 72 per cent in 1987. As a result of the programme, there were 80,000 of the stainless steel design kiosks in service by 1996, in addition to 30,000 hooded/canopied phones in locations such as railway stations or shopping centres and 15,000 old style red boxes in heritage sites.
BT introduced a new design in 1996, the KX + range, following widespread research into public opinion, and which built on the successful features of the stainless steel kiosks.
In 1999, BT operated a network of 137,000 public payphones of various designs across the UK, compared to 81,000 ten years previously, with an average of 5,000 new units being installed each year.
Britain's first credit-card-operated public payphone was introduced. Creditcall, like the Phonecard, was another cashless payphone service, enabling customers to make calls using major credit cards. It was installed on a trial basis in London at Heathrow Airport and Waterloo BR station.
BT Japan was set up to represent BT's corporate interests in Japan (BT is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange). BT Japan managed BT's relations with Japanese carriers, press and governmental authorities. It was also responsible for new business development activity and for sales of systems and services to the financial community. In 1998 it contributed to the creation of BT Communications Services, the BT / Marubeni joint venture company in Japan.
Teletex, a new automatic high speed message transmission service, was inaugurated on 11 April.
The Singapore office of British Telecom was opened.
British Telecom acquired CTB Inc.
The Message Master radiopager was launched. It was the first pager with a mini screen for written messages.
British Telecom acquired Dialcom, International Aeradio (IAL) and a majority holding in Mitel Corporation. The 51 per cent stake in Mitel was sold to funds advised by Schroder Ventures in 1992.
The franchise to operate the Isle of Man's telecommunications system was awarded to British Telecom's Manx Telecom
The computerisation of directory enquiries was completed, replacing the existing microfiche system. Response times to customers' enquiries was now even faster.
A trial of an electronic Yellow Pages system was started.
An opto-electronics joint venture with Du Pont, BT&D Technologies, was initiated to manufacture opto-electronic devices.
The first Customer Services System (CSS) went into service. In 1999 it was the biggest civilian computer system in Europe, providing BT with all the information to support its core customer activities, from billing and order taking to sales support and fault recording.
The first international optical fibre undersea link between the United Kingdom and Belgium was opened.
The world's first all-digital international public telephone service was opened between gateways in London and Tokyo.
The first Thorn-Ericsson AXE10 (System Y) local digital exchange was opened at Sevenoaks in Kent on 27 November.
DIY telephone extensions were permitted for the first time. British Telecom kits became available.
Hong Kong and Tokyo offices were opened, and shares were listed on the Tokyo stock exchange for the first time.
Manx Telecom Ltd came into operation as a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Telecom on 1 January, with a 20-year licence to operate the Isle of Man's telecommunications system.
Itemised billing was introduced on a trial basis in the City of London in January for six months. An £87million programme to provide itemised telephone bills for all customers was announced in December.
Electronic Yellow Pages was launched on 8 January.
British Telecom announced the launch of its Centel 100 Centrex service in March.
Textdirect, an enhanced telex service, was launched in April.
The Under Secretary for Industry confirmed in August that the two existing UK cellular radio operators - Cellnet and Racal Vodafone - would provide the UK part of the pan-European digital cellular radio service due to come into operation in 1991. The following month Cellnet and Racal Vodafone signed a memorandum of understanding with 13 other European cellular radio operators.
Sir George Jefferson resigned as Chairman of British Telecom at the company's annual general meeting. His successor was Iain Vallance.
The world's first instantaneous translation of speech by a computer was demonstrated by British Telecom's Research Laboratories.
The major activities of British Telecom International's marine services were transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company known as BT Marine Ltd. on 1 October.
BT Marine was sold to Cable and Wireless in November 1994.
The final digital trunk switching exchange, in Norwich, entered service in November.
The 500th System X digital local exchange was opened.
The Hull Corporation telephone service was transferred on 7 December to Kingston Communication (Hull) plc, a company owned by the Kingston-upon-Hull City Council.
British Telecom and the Government of Gibraltar formed a joint venture company called Gibtel to operate Gibraltar's overseas telecommunications services from 1 January.
The British Telecom Chairman Iain Vallance opened the City Fibre Network, the country's first fibre optic network, in the City of London on 27 January.
Itemised billing was introduced in the City of London as a permanent service.
The second UK digital international telephone exchange was opened at Kelvin House.
The Sharelink share dealing joint venture with Albert E Sharp & Co was launched.
A major development programme of Monarch digital telephone systems was launched with GECPlessey Telecommunications.
The 1000th 'System X' digital local exchange was opened.
An optical fibre undersea link to the Isle of Man - the longest unregenerated system in Europe - was inaugurated on 28 March. The following year, the equivalent of 25,000 simultaneous telephone conversations was carried over a single optical fibre link in the optical submarine cable.
The British Telecom credit card was introduced on 14 November, and could be used to make calls on any telephone (including payphones) in the United Kingdom. The card provides a secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) and a unique account number. The cost of any calls made was added to the next home or office telephone bill along with details of each call.
The service was relaunched as the BT Chargecard the following year. In 1991, when the service was used by over 600,000 customers, the 20p facility charge on its use for directly-dialled calls was dropped. This attracted large numbers of personal users, whereas previously the service attracted mainly business customers.
BT introduced a new, simpler pricing structure for Chargecard calls made with its Chargecard from 7 August 1997. There was now a single 20p-a-minute rate for all inland direct dialled calls, regardless of time of day and distance. All direct dialled calls made within and from the UK were charged per second, with the minimum fee of 9.5p remaining unchanged.
At the same time there were reductions on some international routes. Changes included a 28 per cent reduction in the daytime cost of calling Japan, a 26 per cent drop in the cheap rate cost of calling Austria, Finland, Malta and Norway and a 21 per cent reduction in the cost of calls to the UK from the USA and Canada.
On 1 August 1998 the Chargecard Gold card was launched. Existing high spending customers of the existing residential Chargecard service automatically received a free replacement Chargecard Gold card and an invitation to register to collect either AIR MILES or to make savings on home telephone bills using BT TalkTime minutes.
The scheme was open to Chargecard customers who spent more than £300 on their Chargecard. Members of the new Chargecard Gold scheme were entitled to earn one AIR MILES award or 10 minutes of BT TalkTime for every £5 of Chargecard calls made. Family members using the same account were given their own Chargecard Gold cards and qualified for the same benefits which were credited to the account. AIR MILES were no longer available for new PremierLine customers from February 1999.
Talking Pages, another service offered by Yellow Pages, was launched.
British Telecom International and INMARSAT started trials of the Standard C satellite system, the smallest and cheapest maritime satellite terminal up to that time.
International Megastream was launched. Its first customer was Shell International Petroleum.
TAT 8, the world's first transoceanic optical fibre cable, came into service. It was laid between Tuckerton, New Jersey, USA and Widemouth Bay, Britain via Penmarch, France.
The world's first satellite telephone communications system for airline passengers, Skyphone, had its commercial debut on a British Airways 747 in February.
Skyphone was operated by a consortium consisting of British Telecom, Singapore Telecom, and Norweigan Telecom. Using digital satellite technology giving high quality links and security, Skyphone provided air-to-ground, ground-to-air, and even air-to-air telephone communications.
British Telecom handed over a cheque for £753 million, then the largest cheque ever written in the UK, as part of the company's corporation tax payments for the 1987/88 financial year.
British Telecom launched the M6000 family of business computers, designed and made by the company at its Fulcrum factories in Birmingham.
A new telephone directory enquiries centre for London was officially opened on 25 January in Darlington. This centre, and those in Torquay and Yeovil opened the previous year, were set up in response to an explosion of calls following the computerisation of the directory enquiry service. Siting them outside London and the South-East eased employment problems and made use of existing accommodation.
On 26 January, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Lord Young announced his decision to grant four licences to operate telepoint services - mobile communications systems similar to Cellnet, but aimed at a wider audience. One consortium, involving Standard Telecommunications Cable (STC), British Telecom, France Telecom and Nynex, was granted a licence to run the Phonepoint service, using the cordless (CT2) handsets. Phonepoint launched its service in August the same year, and was the world's first telepoint operator.
The licences granted were to last for a period of 12 years and were to be monitored and enforced by the Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL). Three of the four telepoint services were closed down in 1991, including Phonepoint on 1 October. The last service - Rabbit - run by Hutchison Communications was launched in 1992, although that was also subsequently closed down.
British Telecom introduced the Customer Service Guarantee, a compensation scheme covering telephone line installations and repairs. Under the scheme customers were able to claim compensation or a fixed penalty if they were without telephone service for more than two clear working days because of British Telecom's failure to install a line on the agreed date, or to repair a telephone line promptly.
The Customer Service Guarantee was revised and reissued several times over the following years, and enhanced by the BT Commitment.
British Telecom acquired a stake of slightly more than 20 per cent of McCaw Cellular Communications Inc, the USA's leading cellular telephone operator, thereby taking a major foothold in the fast-growing worldwide communications market. McCaw later merged with a subsidiary of AT&T, whereupon on 19 September 1994 BT acquired a holding of AT&T shares in exchange for its McCaw shares. BT sold this holding in its entirety in February 1995 by means of a public offering.
The Telecommunications Vocational Standards Council (TVSC), a body to establish vocational qualifications for the telecommunications industry, was set up by British Telecom, Mercury Communications Ltd and STC Telecommunications Ltd.
Automatic Voice Response (AVR) was introduced into the directory enquiries service to give a faster response to callers. The voice of actress Julie Berry was digitally recorded speaking all British Telecom's 6,000 exchange names, plus the full set of numbers and number combinations. When a number requested by a caller was found by the operator, the AVR equipment assembled a number message from its store of exchange names and numbers recorded by Julie Berry and gave a recorded message to the caller allowing the operator to speak to the next caller.
The "Beattie" series of advertisements starring comedienne and actor Maureen Lipman were launched. They were broadcast until 1991.
BT Marine, British Telecom's undersea cable laying subsidiary, announced in November the building of a new 12,500 tonne cableship to replace the CS Alert in 1991, to be called CS Sovereign. The new ship was launched in 1991.
BT's massive programme to modernise its local telephone network reached the half way stage at the end of June when St Paul's exchange came into service. It was the 3,319th local exchange to be switched over from electromechanical to digital technology.
By this time BT had spent more than £15 billion on supporting, modernising and expanding mainstream services in the UK. The trunk network had become fully digital the previous year.
British Telecom purchased the Tymnet network systems business and its associated applications activities from the McDonnell Douglas Corporation on 19 November for $355 million. Its activities included TYMNET, the public network business, plus its associates private and hybrid (mixed public and private) network activities, the OnTyme electronic mail service, the Card Service processing business, and EDI*Net, the US market leader in electronic data interchange.
BT Tymnet anticipated developing an end to end managed network service for multi-national customers, and developing dedicated or hybrid networks that embraced major trading areas. Customers would be able to enjoy one-stop-shopping for global data networks, and a portfolio of products designed for a global market place.
These services were subsequently offered by BT Global Network Services, and subsequently by Concert as part of Concert Global Network Services after the Concert joint venture company was launched on 15 June 1994.
The BT Chargecard was introduced.
British Telecom's long distance network became totally digital on 3 July with the closure of Thurso electro-mechanical exchange in Scotland, completing the trunk lines modernisation beginning in 1985.
British Telecom's Worldwide Network Management Centre at Oswestry, Shropshire, was opened on 5 September at a cost of £4 million. The Centre monitored all of BT's System X exchanges (57 trunk and 373 local exchanges) and the company's three digital internal exchanges, identifying and remedying many problems before the customer became aware of them. Processors that controlled the exchanges generated data to the management floor at the Centre, where up to 30 network managers sat at specially designed consoles where they were fed continuously updated information on the number, destination and duration of calls made. From this data an overview of the digital network allowed efficient control and planning, protecting the network against the danger of congestion. Any potential trouble spots were highlighted on 25m (80ft) long video walls, at that time the largest in Europe, giving up to the minute pictures of how the networks were performing.
British Telecom announced the sale of its telephone manufacturing business based at Cwmcarn, Gwent to STC. Whilst owned by British Telecom, the manufacturing facility had been run by a wholly-owned subsidiary, BT Consumer Electronics.
This subsidiary also ran a telephone refurbishing activity, which was sold on 2 April 1991 to Fulcrum Communications Limited, an associated undertaking in which BT then held a 25 per cent equity interest.
These disposals ended 120 years of involvement of the Post Office and British Telecom involvement in the direct manufacture and refurbishment of telegraph and later telephone equipment. At its largest, the Post Office/British Telecom Factories Division consisted of eight factories around the country (three in London, three in Birmingham, one in Edinburgh and one in Cwmcarn) and employed 4,000 people.
BT Factories had been reorganised into two subsidiaries in 1985, BT Fulcrum Communciations and BT Consumer Electronics, to comply with terms of the BT Licence. These stated that any part of British Telecom involved in the production of telecommunications equipment had to be transferred to a subsidiary company by July 1986.
Under the agreement for the sale of the Cwmcarn facility, STC was to continue to supply the Vanguard telephone, which was thus the last telephone instrument to be manufactured by British Telecom.
British Telecom also gradually withdrew from involvement with cable operating companies as part of its general strategy of concentrating on its core business - providing network-related products and services to customers around the world. During the course of the year British Telecom sold its holdings in Thames Valley Cable, Ulster Cable, Aberdeen Cable Services Ltd., Swindon Cable and Coventry Cable.
The 100 millionth BT Phonecard was produced.
The biggest change to the London telephone numbering system since the introduction of All Figure Numbering took place on 6 May with the code change from 01 to 071 for inner London and 081 for outer London.
The code change was necessary because of the natural growth in demand for numbers and the proliferation of 'number hungry' equipment such as fax machines and PBXs with direct dialling facilities. Changing to 071 and 081 doubled the number of available London numbers. British Telecom had publicised the code changes over the previous year through television, radio, newspapers, poster sites, mailings and so forth. A code change party at Telecom Tower attended by several celebrities marked the actual changeover itself, which was broadcast live on television. To further celebrate the occasion British Telecom donated £1 million to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art towards its new premises in central London.
There was a further code change in 1995.
On 5 March the Government's White Paper 'Competition and Choice: Telecommunications Policy for the 1990s' was issued. In effect, it marked the ending of the duopoly which had been shared in the UK by British Telecom and Mercury Communications since November 1983 and the build up to privatisation. The new, more open and fairer policy allows customers to acquire telecommunications services from competing providers using a variety of technologies. Independent 'retail' companies would also be permitted to bulk-buy telecommunications capacity and sell it in packages to business and domestic users. The White Paper was endorsed by British Telecom, the new policy allowing the company to compete freely and more effectively by offering flexible pricing packages to meet the needs of different types of customer.
ISDN 2 (Integrated Services Digital Network) was launched on 7 February, offering new applications in addition to enhancing existing services. Customers were able to take advantage of vastly increased computer to computer data transmission times. Other benefits included low cost video links through which speech and images were carried, the ability to transmit an A4 page in a couple of seconds over facsimile and an improved telephone service with faster call set-up and clearer speech.
ISDN 2 was gradually replaced by ISDN 2e following the latter's introduction in October 1997 to comply with the latest European ISDN standard.
BT launched Phone Disc in March, an electronic phone book, as an alternative to directory enquiries and phone books. The CD contained all 17 million residential and business entries covering the UK, although ex-directory numbers were not included.
The standard networkable version was initially available for an annual subscription of £2,200, but in October 1995 the charge was reduced to £1,600 a year. Customers received an updated Phone Disc every quarter.
The annual version of Phone Disc was first available at a cost of £950, but this was reduced in September 1994 to £299 and again to £199 in November 1995.
For high volume multi-server users there was another network version, again updated quarterly, which was launched in 1994 at £4,000 a year, reduced in November 1995 to £3,000 a year.
Originally available in MS-DOS, a Windows based version of all three options was launched in September 1996. A Welsh bilingual version became available from August 1992.
Phone Base was introduced at the same time as another alternative to directory enquiries. Phone Base was a dial-up service connecting a customer's terminal or PC to BT's database via a modem and the telephone network. There were no connection or rental charges, and the customer paid for the cost of the call over the network. As with Phone Disc, ex-directory numbers were not available.
A new corporate structure took over from the existing organisation on 2 April when British Telecom was relaunched as BT, the company's new trading name. Introduced over the previous 12 months since the unveiling of Project Sovereign - the name given to the initiative - the objective was to set-up a company structure best suited to face the telecommunications challenges of the 1990s. The name Sovereign was selected since it reflected the company's commitment to meeting customers' needs - 'The customer is King'. The new organisation focused on specific market sectors to cater for the different needs of BT customers - the individual customer, the small businessman or the multi-national corporation, and so forth. The new BT was launched with a new corporate identity suitable for a quality company in a highly competitive world marketplace. Putting Customers First, the programme which followed on from the reorganisation and the BT Commitment encapsulated BT's new identity - a company that was open and easy to deal with. This was further reflected in the BT logo, a symbol which represented two human figures, one listening, one speaking, brought together by BT's technology and understanding of customers' needs.
Free call-barring was introduced on 1 February which allowed customers to prevent calls being made to premium rate services from their lines.
Charges were introduced for directory enquiries for the first time from 2 April. People using the service were thereafter charged 43.5p (45p after that years rise in VAT) for a search for up to two numbers. Despite adverse media attention on this development, BT demonstrated that the new system would be a fairer way of paying for the service. The service as a whole cost £250 million a year, which was borne by every customer through higher call charges whether they used the service or not. There was no extra revenue for BT, since all income generated from charging for directory enquiries was channeled into reducing call charges. At the same time charges were introduced, call charges were reduced by 7.3 per cent for national calls and 4.5 per cent for local calls. Enquiries from public payphones remained free, and there were no charges for people with visual or other disabilities who were not able to use phone books.
On 1 September 1994, BT cut the cost of directory enquiries to 25p incl. VAT, although the cost rose again to 35p on 18 February 1998. This reflected an £84 million investment in new technology over the following year to further improve the service. International directory enquiry charges on '153' also increased in 1998, from 60p to 80p per enquiry.
The first BT payphone available for sale as well as rental was launched. Until now BT had offered private payphones for rental only. Known as the Payphone 190
the tabletop payphone replaced two previous BT models - Moneybox and Payphone Mk II.
On 30 May a new BT cableship was launched in Rotterdam named CS Sovereign, the first new wholly owned cableship for 15 years. She was built by the Dutch firm, Van der Giessen-de Noord, who won the £32 million contract after international competitive tendering. CS Sovereign handled repair and maintenance to fibre optic systems and intended to replace CS Alert.
Braille telephone bills, a new service for blind customers, were introduced on 12 August. Partially sighted people also benefited with the introduction of large print bills at the same time. BT worked jointly with the Royal National Institute for the Blind to produce the bills, which because of space constraints, only showed the details contained on the ordinary non-itemised bill.
On 19 September BT announced the formation of a new subsidiary - Syncordia. Providing multinational companies with tailor-made voice and data communications networks, Syncordia offered an international network with end-to-end solutions for their complex international communications systems. Traditionally, companies around the world had to negotiate with individual national telecommunications administrations for the provision of telecommunications services. By April 1993 the new company had won over $200 million of business.
In September 1995, BT's outsourcing contracts had generated over a billion pounds of revenue, BT integrated its UK and international telecommunications outsourcing businesses into a single service under the Syncordia brand. Outsourcing would be provided by BT's US partner in the Americas and by BT in the rest of the world. The concentration of outsourcing services under the single Syncordia brand underlined BT's commitment to provide a consistent, high quality service to customers wherever in the world they operated.
Syncordia was merged in May 1999 with BT's equally successful systems integration business Syntegra to form a new division, BT Solutions, to sit alongside the other recently created Divisions, BT UK and BT Worldwide. BT Solutions combined complimentary skills of the previous two businesses under a single brand to meet all customer needs for integrated business solutions.
Following BT Chairman Iain Vallance's pledge at the annual shareholders' meeting in Nottingham on 18 July to introduce a "customers' charter" to match BT's determination to be the phone company with the best customer service in the world, BT launched the BT Commitment on 20 September.
A complete set of service standards for customers, the BT Commitment built on the success of the Customer Service Guarantee first launched in 1989. It specified target response times for orders and repairs, and connection rates and speed of connection. It also guaranteed compensation for missed targets, particularly if the customer suffered financial loss as a result. The BT Commitment, which was part of BT's on-going process of continuous improvement which began under the Putting Customers First programme the following year, also promised easier and more flexible contact with BT. The simple contact numbers of 150 for residential customers enquiries and 151 for residential customers 24 hour fault reporting service, and the 152 and 154 equivalents for business customers, were launched at this time.
BT launched a range of discount schemes for business customers called Customer Options in September. In return for a quarterly charge, businesses had the opportunity to make savings on directly dialled calls. A range of schemes was available, depending on the size of the customer's bill. They included Option 40 (£8 per quarter charge, savings of between 8 and 11 per cent), Option 50 (£300 quarterly charge, savings of between 10 and 12.4 per cent) and Option 70 (£600 quarterly charge, savings of between 11 and 13.3 per cent).
Option 15, a scheme aimed at residential customers, was launched in January the following year.
The Business Choices range of discount schemes largely replaced the Customer Options range, with the exception of Option 15.
The introduction of a new user-friendly public payphone was announced on 11 October. It offered customers the choice of three payment methods in a single model - coins, BT Phonecards and credit cards. These multi-payment payphones were brought into service in 1992.
The Government made available 1,598 million ordinary BT shares (25.6 per cent of ordinary issued shares) for purchase in a second flotation (BT2) on 21 November, amounting to around half of its holding of 47.6 per cent of shares in the company) which remained from the original 1984 flotation. The sale raised over £5 billion for the Government, reducing its stake to 1,343 million shares (21.8 per cent of ordinary issued shares) .
A third and final flotation followed in 1993.
The Putting Customers First programme was unveiled on 6 January in the North West of England. It was followed by national implementation on 30 March.
The programme aimed to transform customer perceptions of the company, and was based on a range of initiatives dealing with BT's responsiveness to its customers, value and quality of service. Related initiatives the previous year, such as the Customer Options range of call discounts schemes, the revised Customer Service Guarantee and the BT Commitment, preceded it.
A new transatlantic fibre optic cable (TAT 9) came into service linking the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Spain. The cable measured 9,000 kilometres in length and was able to carry the equivalent of 80,000-voice calls simultaneously, twice the capacity of TAT 8.
The TAT 10 transatlantic telephone cable was laid, linking the USA, Germany and Holland.
BT launched the Option 15 discount scheme in January of this year. The scheme originally entitled customers to up to a 10 per cent reduction in the cost of direct dialled local, regional, national and international calls for a charge of £4 per month. The scheme was aimed at customers who consistently spent more than £73 per quarter.
From 28 June 1995 Option 15 discounts, as with all BT's residential option packages, applied to calls made from any phone line at the same address, providing they appeared on the same bill.
From 1 October 1995, along with other BT discount schemes, the discount on calls to information and entertainment services, and calls made to mobile phones was reduced to 5 per cent. This recognised that BT retains only part of the revenue from these calls and passes a substantial portion on to the other companies which provide these services. However, Friends & Family customers could now include a mobile number as one of their nominated numbers for the first time , thereby gaining a reduction in call charges to a mobile phone which from 1 April 1996 was increased from 5 to 10 per cent.
BT reduced the quarterly fee for Option 15 from £4 to £3.39 from 1 July 1997. When combined with BT's free Friends & Family scheme, Option 15 gave savings of 20 per cent on calls to the nominated numbers. This was later increased to 21 per cent when the Option 15 discount was increased to 11 per cent.
From 1 November 1998, BT reduced the quarterly fee for Option 15 from £3.39 to £3.20. This represented a decrease of 5.6 per cent per quarter.
The "Get Through to Someone" advertising campaign ran from this year until 1994, featuring a series of real life occurrences, such as a college girl calling home.
Marine-Page was launched to provide a low-cost means of ship-to-shore paging and messaging service used to contact ships in the North Sea using medium frequency radio.
Videophone was demonstrated at the Ideal Home Exhibition in March, enabling customers to see as well as hear the person on the line. It became available to the public as the Relate 2000 later in the year.
BT completed the conversion of its 5,500 public payphones in Wales from their old livery in April, giving them a bilingual identity. The project was completed in under a year following a pledge made at Caernarfon in July 1991.
BT unveiled a multi-million pound investment programme for its Global Network Services (GNS). GNS was a portfolio of managed data network services, launched in 1990, which covered 107 countries and at this time was directly provided and supported by BT on an end-to-end basis in 23 countries. GNS and its portfolio were subsequently absorbed into the Concert joint venture company in 1994.
The investment programme in this year included a substantial geographical expansion of the Services, and the introduction of a new high speed Frame Relay connection for data applications, such as the interconnection of local area networks.
Frame Relay was a new data communications protocol, using new high-speed packet switching technology to handle data traffic with high peaks and requiring high volume throughput between a number of geographically dispersed sites, for example the interconnection of local area networks nationally and internationally. The new high speed frame relay connections allowed customers to transmit data at rates up to two million bits of information per second (2Mbit/s). This was a considerable improvement on the existing 56/64 Kbit/s transatlantic frame relay service already offered by BT, which was the first such service in the world.
A redesigned telephone bill was issued to customers nationally from October, setting all the information out in clearer, simpler terms and designed to reduce confusion over charges.
The 100,000th BT payphone was installed at Dunsop Bridge near Clitheroe in Lancashire. The site was chosen as being the village nearest to the centre of Great Britain.
BT ran the Sunday Special promotion during November and December. National direct dialled calls between 3pm and midnight on Sundays were charged at the local cheap rate.
BT established a network of 13 Malicious Calls Bureaux throughout the country, operated by teams of specially trained investigators who worked closely with the police. Concerned customers had only to ring one 0800 number to be put through automatically to the nearest bureau.
It was estimated at the time that 15 million malicious calls were made every year, one call in every 20,000. BT received 250,000 requests for help from customers receiving such calls before the Bureaux were introduced.
By 1997, and the fifth anniversary of setting up the Bureaux, BT had assisted more than 3 million customers who were being harassed by malicious calls.
One million customers had received advice or a leaflet from BT and a further 800,000 had their telephone number changed free of charge. Of the remaining 1.2 million cases, a quarter involved setting up tracing equipment at the request of the police, resulting in the source of more than six million individual calls being successfully identified.
A third of the cases with police involvement resulted in either a prosecution or a formal police caution. Since early 1996 the Bureaux had extended their work to handle malicious and hoax calls to the 999 operators and to the emergency services. In addition, there were growing numbers of cases where customers were called in error, particularly by wrongly programmed fax machines, modems or autodiallers. Some of these latter calls are made by equipment such as refrigeration units, traffic lights or boilers ringing a control centre to report an alarm situation. By tracing the source of the calls, the Bureaux not only ensured that the unwanted calls stopped, but that the company or organisation responsible for the equipment identified an error in what could have been potentially critical circumstances.
Making malicious calls is a criminal offence under Section 43 of the Telecommunications Act (1984). When the Malicious Calls Bureaux started, the maximum penalty was a fine of £400, later raised to £1,000. In 1995, the penalty on summary conviction was raised to a fine of up to £5,000 and - for the first time - a custodial sentence of up to six months was introduced.
In June 1997, the Protection from Harassment Act (1997) came into force and a person convicted under Section 2 of the Act henceforth faced a possible restraining order to prevent re-offending. Any subsequent breach of the restraining order could have resulted in imprisonment for a term of up to five years.
The Internet Society was chartered. This was the genesis of the World Wide Web.
Skyphone, a consortium comprising BT, Singapore Telecom and Norwegian Telecom, launched the world's first airborne fax service. Singapore International Airlines were the first to introduce the fax service on its fleet of Boeing 747s.
BT and MCI, the second largest carrier of long distance telecommunications services in the United States, announced a joint global alliance through a new international joint venture company in June, codenamed NewCo. The joint venture was launched as Concert Communications.
Virtually all the remaining shares in BT left to the Government from the first and second share offers were sold in BT3, a third flotation of Government owned shares in July 1993, raising £5 billion for the Treasury and introducing 750,000 new shareholders to the company.
Jetphone was introduced, a fully automatic air-to-ground digital terrestrial flight telecommunications system operating on a cellular principle designed to cover, initially, Western Europe. The system offered onboard voice, data and facsimile services to passengers and crew, providing access to both public switched telephone networks (PSTN) and private networks in more than 200 countries.
Mercury Communications launched its One-2-One mobile telephone service.
The National Weekend Rate, introduced in December, cut the cost of long distance calls by up to 60 per cent so that a three minute direct-dialled call to anywhere in the UK cost just 10p at any time on Saturdays and Sundays.
Different rates applied to national weekend calls using the operator, BT Chargecard or BT payphones.
BT created Syntegra in 1993 as its systems integration business to address the opportunity offered by the convergence of the worlds of IT, telecommunications and consulting. Syntegra helped its customers change the way they ran their businesses, advising on business processes combined with the latest IT and communication systems to give a competitive edge.
Typical customers were multinational corporations, major national organisations and communities of business partners. In 1999, Syntegra employed over 4,000 people, half of whom were based outside the UK doing business in over 50 countries, with customer centres in Europe, the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, earning revenues of excess of £400 million per annum.
In December 1995 Syntegra acquired the French systems company, Europe Informatique, followed in April 1996 by the acquisition of the Dutch systems integration company, Rijinhaave. These takeovers were part of a programme of an expansion programme of acquisitions and alliances.
Syntegra was merged in May 1999 with BT's equally successful telecommunications outsourcing business, Syncordia to form a new division, BT Solutions, to sit alongside the other recently created divisions, BT UK and BT Worldwide. BT Solutions combined complimentary skills of the previous two businesses under a single brand to meet all customer needs for integrated business solutions.
Peak call rates were abolished on 9 March and replaced by a new Daytime rate, operating Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm. For the first time since 1970, customers were able to make calls in the busy morning period without paying a premium. This was BT's biggest ever single price cut to date, saving customers an overall £350 million over a full year by making direct dialled calls to all UK destinations as cheap in the morning as they were in the afternoon.
BT introduced the Light User Scheme in February for customers who made few or no calls, but who might need a phone as a lifeline. The Scheme offered a rebate based on call bill size of up to more than 60 per cent of the line rental if no calls were made.
The maximum rebate, if no calls were made, was £16.38, reducing the quarterly rental charge to £10.24 - a saving of more than 60 per cent.
By 1998, when BT introduced the "no frills" BT In Contact service, more than three million customers had taken advantage of the Scheme, including many of those for whom the phone was a lifeline.
The new National Long Distance Call charge band was introduced in September, abolishing the most expensive long distance charge rate and saving customers overall £244 million in a year.
BT launched a joint venture in Spain in April with Banco Santander as an equal partner. The new joint venture company was called BT Telecomunicaciones S.A. and offered managed network services in Spain, such as frame relay, Internet and virtual voice services.
BT took full control of the company by purchasing Banco Santander's 50 per cent shareholding in July 1997, by which time the company had developed a national network with an investment of 17,000 million Ptas. By then it had more than 1,000 corporate customers.
The last TXK crossbar exchange, at Droitwich, was withdrawn.
The British Approvals Board for Telecommunications (BABT) first issued its approval certificate for BT's bill metering systems, confirming that they meet BABT's stringent control requirements and Oftel's Standard for Public Telecommunications Operators' Meter Systems.
The certificate was renewed in February 1996 when BT remained the only telecommunications company in the UK to have received such approval.
BT's UK operation became the largest single organisation in the world to receive registration under the international quality standard ISO 9001.
This commitment to quality in all its activities was reaffirmed on 23 June when the UK's two leading independent quality auditors, The British Standards Institution (BSI) and Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance (LRQA), reissued BT with its Corporate ISO 9001 certificate.
This was the only certificate of its kind to be issued jointly by the two organisations, reflecting the huge range of BT activities that it covered. In effect, it was a summary of the 50 or so individual ISO 9000 certificates that had been granted to different parts of the business.
In 1996, the company was also a European Quality Award prize winner in its first year of entry.
Free fully itemised telephone bills were made available to residential customers to cover every single call.
The "It's Good to Talk" campaign was launched this year, featuring Bob Hoskins and the famous phrase, "It's Good to Talk". Directed by Hollywood's Ridley Scott, Hoskins appeared in 51 TV commercials, five voice-overs and 13 radio commercials until 1996.
BT announced in October that it had signed an agreement to sell its subsidiary, BT Marine Ltd, to Cable & Wireless (Marine) Ltd.
BT introduced the PremierLine discount scheme in June aimed at residential customers with call bills of £100 or more per quarter, although users could still benefit if their call bill fell as low as £40. The scheme entitled customers to;
- a 15 per cent reduction in direct dialled local, regional, national and international calls.
- a 10 per cent discount against basic rates on direct dialled calls, including BT Chargecard calls, to mobile or PCN phones, or to Information and Entertainment Services (previously known as Premium Rate Services).
- 'TalkingPoints' which could be exchanged for free gifts from the PremierLine catalogue, or for AIR MILES at the rate of one AIR MILE award for every 10 points.
Customers received 500 free TalkingPoints when they joined, and one for each whole £1 that appeared on their phone bill (AIR MILES were no longer available for new customers to PremierLine from February 1999, although existing customers could continue to claim them for the duration of their PremierLine contract).
PremierLine cost £24 a year, initially payable annually, although from July 1 1996 it could be paid in four quarterly instalments of £6 each, with customers receiving monthly BT bills being able to pay in 12 monthly instalments of £2.
From 28 June 1995 PremierLine discounts, as with all BT's residential option packages, applied to calls made from any phone line at the same address, provided they appeared on the same bill.
From 1 October 1995, along with other BT discount schemes, the saving on calls to information and entertainment services, and calls made to mobile phones, was reduced to 5 per cent. This recognised that BT retained only part of the revenue from these calls and passed a substantial portion on to the other companies that provided these services. However, Friends & Family customers could now include a mobile number as one of their nominated numbers for the first time, thereby gaining reduction in call charges to a mobile phone which from 1 April 1996 was increased from 5 to 10 per cent.
From 3 April 1997 PremierLine benefits were extended to include free membership of BT's Friends & Family Overseas discount package, which gave a discount of 10 per cent on calls to five international numbers. The improvement meant that PremierLine customers could enjoy combined discounts of 25 per cent off BT's basic call prices on their calls to up to six international numbers, and a total of 15 numbers in all if they were also on BT's free Friends & Family scheme. They could also receive the 15 per cent PremierLine discount on almost all their other calls (local, regional, national and international), all for the £6 per quarter PremierLine fee.
At the same time as the launch of PremierLine, BT announced the introduction of Business Choices, a discount package which offered five different levels of discounts for business lines in an office or site with combined direct dialled call bills of £75 or more per quarter.
The first such scheme of its kind in Europe, Business Choices offered savings for almost every kind of business on direct dialled calls. For UK direct dialled calls these were between 14 and 18 per cent on basic unit rate, depending on the Business Choices level adopted, plus an additional 3 per cent on most direct dialled international calls. Business Choices was a development of the Customer Options range of discount packages such as Option 40, Option 50 and Option 70, which it largely replaced. It was focused entirely on individual business sites, making the structure easier to understand.
The scheme was improved in June 1995 when the discounts available on direct dialled regional and national calls were increased by 3 per cent, bringing them into line with the discounts available for dialled international calls. By this time over half a million business customers were registered with the Business Choices level appropriate for the size of their phone bill.
The maximum saving possible was further increased with the introduction on 1 October 1996 of BT Business Connections, called Key Numbers from May 1996. This scheme gave a 5 per cent discount on direct dialled calls made to ten other numbers, and later a 10 per cent discount on an eleventh key contact number. It could be added to the discounts of up to 21 per cent available on Business Choices Levels 1 - 5, to provide a maximum possible 26 per cent saving on the qualifying calls.
In May 1996 BT announced a further series of enhancements to Business Choices to coincide with the launch of the discount package for very small businesses, BT Business Advantage. Overall, the improvements meant that the price of almost every call made by almost every UK business, no matter how small, could qualify for a tailored BT discount. The latest enhancements to Business Choices in particular meant that businesses were able to save between 27 per cent and 31 per cent on BT's basic regional, national and international call prices by the addition of a further 10 per cent to existing discount levels. They were also able to add 6 per cent to local call discounts, giving overall savings of between 20 per cent and 24 per cent. BT's Key Numbers discount package for customers' most frequently called numbers added another 5 per cent to the improved Business Choices savings for ten nominated numbers (and later a 10 per cent discount on an eleventh key contact number). Together, these schemes could have made total savings of up to 36 per cent possible on many calls. These improvements were estimated to save business customers £220 million a year, in addition to the £1.1 billion savings over the previous three years, including those for residential customers. This was the equivalent of a reduction of 18 per cent in the average business phone bill.
Yet more savings became possible for international calls with the launch of Key Countries discount scheme on 1 January 1998, and for UK calls with the launch on 1 April 1998 of the Key Cities and Key Regions schemes.
These schemes each gave a 15 per cent discount on business calls made up to ten nominated countries in the case of Key Countries, or on calls made to nominated cities or within the customer's own region respectively in the case of Key Cities and Key Regions.
These could be combined with other discount regions to make even more substantial savings. For example, Key Cities and Key Regions, when combined with Business Choices and Key Numbers, produced savings of up to 42 per cent. This meant that from 1 April 1998, for a business that already had BT Business Choices Level 1 and Key Numbers schemes, national daytime calls would have cost just 3.9p per minute with either Key Cities or Key Regions. This was an overall saving of 42 per cent on BT's basic price of 6.8p per minute.
BT introduced the Friends & Family discount scheme in February, aimed at residential customers. The scheme cost a single payment of £4.99 and entitled customers to a reduction of 5 per cent on any calls made to five selected numbers, one of which could be international.
Under Friends & Family Overseas, customers could also nominate up to five additional international numbers which received the 5 per cent Friends & Family discount, for a fee of £1 a quarter. It was free for PremierLine customers from April 1997.
From 28 June 1995, Friends & Family discounts applied to calls made using BT Chargecards to the five numbers nominated under the scheme and discounts from the packages applied to calls made from any phone line at the same address, providing they appeared on the same bill.
From 1 April 1996, a triple improvement was made to Friends & Family:
- the discount was doubled to 10 per cent. This could be added to discounts of up to 15 per cent available on BT's other residential schemes, giving a possible 25 per cent saving on those calls.
- The £4.99 joining fee was abolished at the same time.
- Customers also had a sixth number, their own, added automatically to the scheme, extending the 10 per cent discount to calls they made home using a BT Chargecard.
The effect of these reductions, accompanied by extensive marketing, was to double membership of Friends & Family to five million in fewer than three months.
On 8 January 1997, by which time membership of Friends & Family had risen to nine million, BT announced that the numbers that could be nominated by customers under the scheme would be doubled to ten.
From 1 January 1998, BT introduced Friends & Family Country Calling Plans to give residential customers even bigger savings on calls to many countries. For a fee of just £1 a month customers could save 25 per cent on calls to a country of their choice, at all times. Customers could nominate up to five countries, paying the £1 monthly fee for each country. The saving could be combined with PremierLine and Friends & Family schemes to give discounts of more than 43 per cent on BT basic prices, for qualifying calls.
Also, from 1 May 1998, Friends & Family BestFriend was introduced, giving a 20 per cent reduction to one of the customer's ten specified numbers, in place of the usual ten per cent, so long as it was not an international or mobile number.
Friends & Family remained the leading and most flexible residential discount package at this time. Also available to BT ClickFree customers to reduce pay-as-you go Internet access charges, it could further be combined with other BT discount schemes to maximise savings. The most recent of these was BT Call & Save, announced on 5 January 1999. This scheme gave a 10 per cent discount on eligible calls to residential customers whose quarterly call bill was greater than £25. Eligible calls are direct dialled local, regional, national and international calls, including those calls made using a Chargecard and Ring Me Free card.
BT and MCI Communication Corporation launched Newco as Concert Communications Services in June, a $1 billion joint venture company. This alliance gave BT and MCI a global network for providing end-to-end connectivity for advanced business services. Concert was the first company to provide a single source, broad portfolio of global communications services for multinational customers, and was the first of the large carrier alliances to secure all regulatory and other approvals. As part of the alliance, BT acquired a 20 per cent holding in MCI. Under the terms of the joint venture MCI and its distributors marketed Concert services in the Americas, while BT and its distributors marketed Concert services in other parts of the world.
By November 1998 Concert had become the world's leading provider of seamless global transborder communications services and had more than 4,400 customers in 52 countries. Around 40 per cent of Fortune Global 500 companies used Concert services, accounting for nearly $2.75 billion in committed contract revenue. Concert services were available from 47 distributors worldwide. In 1999, the Concert network had 6,000 nodes deployed in more than 800 cities across more than 50 countries, representing 90 per cent of worldwide business.
Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Concert Communications Services developed advanced networking services for BT and its distributors to market to global companies throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.
The Concert portfolio of services was based on intelligent network technology, offering a single point of accountability and consistent and seamless products via a single globally managed network. Concert Frame Relay Service , Concert Managed Bandwidth Service, Concert Virtual Network Service , Concert Inbound Service (a global voice service for call centres) and Concert Packet Services (a managed global data network, also providing remote user access to large host or LAN-based systems, dial up service and remote access to applications and databases of information providers) were among the global solutions the Concert distributors delivered.
Following the completion of a merger agreement between Worldcom and MCI in September 1998, BT acquired from MCI its 24.9 per cent interest in Concert Communications for £607 million . Now that BT wholly owned Concert, work was undertaken to ensure that the group's business would be fully independent of MCI. The costs involved in this work were estimated at £150 million over the two years to March 2000.
Call Return and Caller Display were launched on 22 November as part of the portfolio of Select Services available to UK customers connected to digital exchanges. Select Services were marketed as early as January 1982 as Star Services following the opening of the first System X digital exchange at Woodbridge, Suffolk in 1981. They became more widely available as the network was progressively modernised, ultimately becoming almost universal when the network became fully digital in 1998. The full range currently includes:
Caller Display: first trialled in December 1992, Caller Display allowed customers to see the number of the person calling them before they answered the telephone. The number was shown on a special unit or phone incorporating a display unit which could be rented or bought.
Call Return: enabled customers to find the telephone number of the last person to call them by dialing "1471". It was decided to offer this facility free permanently as part of the celebrations marking BT's tenth anniversary. By the end of May 1996 all Call Return customers could enjoy an improved service which gave the time and date of the last call, as well as the number, which could be returned automatically by simply dialing "3".
Callers could prevent their numbers being forwarded by dialling "141" before the number they were calling. This did not prevent the tracing of malicious calls through BT's internal Malicious Call Identification system, which BT operated with the police.
By only March 1996, the introduction of these two services had led to a reduction of 20 per cent in the number of obscene, offensive and malicious calls in the UK. By the same time around 12 million BT customers used Call Return each week, making an average six million calls to the service every day, in addition to the two and a quarter million customers who used other Select Services regularly.
Charge Advice: a free service which gave the approximate cost of a call immediately after a customer made it.
Reminder Call: allowed a phone to be programmed to ring back at the desired time as an alarm or a reminder.
Call Waiting: allowed customers to accept another incoming call while they are already speaking on the phone.
Three Way Calling: allowed a third person to join in a phone conversation, enabling customers to set up their own conference calls.
Call Diversion: diverted incoming calls to virtually any other telephone, including a mobile phone. The caller was charged only for their call to the customer's phone, and the customer paid for the diverted call to its new destination.
Call Barring: allowed customers to bar incoming calls from some types of numbers when they did not wish to be disturbed, and to bar all outgoing calls selectively, or calls to just certain other numbers such as international calls, in order to control their bill.
Call Minder: launched in May 1995, it provided customers with their own personal answering service from within the BT phone exchange. It replaced the usual telephone answering machine, and could record up to 30 incoming messages for customers even when they were using their own phone.
Call Sign: a new service launched in December 1998 and aimed at busy households, homeworkers, and small businesses. At a cost of £5 per quarter, BT Call Sign provided customers with an additional phone number on their existing line, which rang with a distinctive sound when called. They would know before answering the phone whether it was, for example, a personal or business call, a call for a different member of the family or for a flatmate. Other uses of BT Call Sign included the ability to identify between a fax or telephone call on the same line or the addition of a new number for customers with more than one business.
The BT Call Sign number could be listed in the local residential or business phone book.
BT and MCI launched Concert Virtual Network Service (Concert VNS) in November. Concert VNS was an advanced international virtual private network aimed at multi-national companies, and was the first such service to be launched. It enabled companies to establish seamless voice and data links between countries where the service was available. Customers could have access to features such as short code dialing, card services and faster call set up, normally available only on a private network. Concert VNS was based on intelligent network technology, which used centralised databases to control and manage calls across the network. It eliminated fixed costs and operational requirements associated with privately owned international networks, and featured a one-stop shop for installation, service and billing. Customers could call multilingual global customer service centres 24 hours a day seven days a week and could be billed for all global services in a choice of currencies and languages.
The service was swiftly expanded geographically to cover more countries, and a second generation of VNS value added features was launched in October 1995. This included Concert Audioconferencing (global private audio conference calls), Concert VNS Calling Card (cost efficient long distance calls when out of the office via either private or public dialing plans), Concert Remote Access (freedom from dedicated access to Concert VNS) and Concert Switched 656/64 Service (targeted at growing videoconferencing and document sharing applications). By May 1997, over 100 multinational customers had chosen the service to meet their global needs, including Unilever and Ford.
Internet use exploded this year. The first cyberbank, First Virtual, opened on the Internet, and in the USA Pizza Hut offered on-line pizza ordering through its Web page. Recognising the Internet's potential, BT launched BTnet, its Internet access service aimed at business customers and resellers, in December. BT provided connectivity via a high-speed transatlantic link to the United States, and to Europe through membership of EBONE (European Backbone). From November 1995, Internet Service Providers, resellers and Corporate Users were able to access BTnet via Concert Frame Relay Service. This service was later being used by around 50 ISPs and was available in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and South Africa. BT later launched BT Internet, BT Click+ and BT ClickFree, Internet services aimed at residential customers and smaller businesses.
Oftel nominated 16 April as National Code Change day, Phoneday. The code change effectively gave every geographic number an extra "1" after the "0". Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester were given new codes and new numbers were introduced to cater for future growth. The international code for calls from the UK changed from "010" to "00".
BT and BNL (Banca Nazionale del Laverno) - one of Italy's leading banks - announced in April the formation of a new joint venture company to supply specialized telecommunications services in Italy.
The new company, called Albacom, was initially owned 50.5 per cent by BT and 49.5 per cent by BNL. It combined the telecommunications activities of BNL and its communications subsidiary Multiservizi Lavoro Sud with BT's network in Italy, which already provided international and domestic managed network services.
In May 1996, Mediaset S.p.A., the media arm of Fininvest, took a 30 per cent stake in Albacom for L50 billion (£22 million), as well as merging its telecommunications activities with Albacom. BT and BNL retained the remaining 70 per cent of Albacom. To consolidate the new partnership, BT and BNL acquired a small equity stake in Mediaset for L170bn (£71 million).
Another company joined the consortium following the announcement by Albacom in July 1997 that ENI, the Italian oil and gas company, would become a major partner. ENI injected capital into Albacom, giving it a 35 per cent stake in the company. BT and BNL now jointly held 45.5 per cent (through Albacom Holdings Ltd) and Mediaset 19.5 per cent. As part of the deal the ENI group transferred its telecommunications division to Albacom which entered into a contract to provide telecommunications services to the ENI group. In addition, Albacom had the right to use ENI group's fibre optic network.
BT and German industrial group VIAG - one of Germany's ten largest companies - launched a joint venture company, Viag InterKom KG, in May to offer telecommunications services in Germany.
Headquartered in Munich, VIAG Intercom offered data communications, corporate voice, virtual private networks as well as international voice and data services from Concert, the BT and MCI global networking company. With six branches and a customer service centre in Nuremberg, the company was represented throughout Germany.
On 4 February 1997, BT and VIAG were awarded the fourth mobile licence for the E2-net in Germany. The licence was based on the high capacity DCS- 1800 standard. VIAG Intercom had also been awarded a licence the previous week to offer fixed services from 1 January 1998.
BT and VIAG announced on 6 February 1997 that Telenor - the Norwegian telecommunications operator - had agreed to join VIAG Intercom, taking a ten per cent stake in the company.
BT, Tele Danmark and the Norwegian operator Telenor launched a new telecommunications operator, Telenordia, in the Swedish market in May 1995.
Owned equally by BT, Tele Danmark and Telenor, Telenordia aimed to become the leading alternative telecommunications operator in Sweden. With full regulatory clearance from the European Union already given, the joint venture required no further legal clearance from European or Swedish authorities.
Telenordia offered global voice and data communications solutions via Concert, the global networking company at that time jointly owned by BT and MCI, as well as national data communications services, corporate and public voice services.
Interactive TV trials began with 2,500 households in Ipswich and Colchester. The service enabled customers to chose a range of services from a menu on an ordinary television set including video on demand, shopping on demand, a range of educational programming for homes and schools and a home banking service. The trial was completed in July the following year.
The trial service, which involved some 5,500 users in more than 2,000 homes, brought together the telephone and the television to enable customers to choose and order entertainment and information services from a menu on an ordinary television set.
It comprised nine main services: movies on demand; television programming on demand; children's TV; education; music videos; a community service, a home shopping and home banking service; computer games and an interactive advertising service.
On 23 June BT officially removed the last Strowger exchange from its public network at Crawford in Scotland, bringing to a close 83 years service from electro-mechanical automatic telephony. This was the latest milestone in BT's £20 billion investment in the UK's phone network - enough to build two Channel Tunnels - over the previous 11 years. In 1984 BT had inherited a network of more than 6,700 telephone exchanges, many of which were based on electro-mechanical technology developed almost 100 years previously. With the upgrade at Crawford - and also Crawfordjohn and Elvanfoot, also in Scotland, which were replaced the same day - they had all been replaced by digital or modern electronic exchanges.
New exchanges, using the most modern computerised technology, have no moving parts so they are much more reliable and provide almost instant connections and clearer conversations. All of BT's exchanges now allowed TouchTone dialling, fast call connection, fully-itemised bills, and selective pricing discount schemes, as well as per second pricing. In addition, more than 80 per cent of all customers were connected to the very latest digital exchanges, such as the new switch at Crawford. As a consequence they could enjoy a range of further services, such as Caller Display, Three-Way Calling, Call Diversion, Call Waiting, videoconferencing, and Call Minder - an answering machine service in the telephone exchange that could record incoming messages even while the phone was in use. In addition to bringing a much more reliable network and a range of new services and facilities for all of BT's customers, modernisation was accompanied by real reductions in the overall costs of telephone services.
The last TXE2 exchanges in the UK (Ballycastle in N Ireland, Llandovery in Wales and Ramsbury in England), were withdrawn from service, also on 23 June.
BT introduced per second pricing on 28 June, and was the first major telephone operator, anywhere in the world to change its entire network over to per second pricing by abolishing unit-based charging for all its customers, which had been in operation since 1958.
At the same time, BT introduced price cuts of £310 million a year. Two-thirds of the total savings - £204 million - came off the cost of local calls, with an overall 9 per cent reduction benefiting both business and residential customers. Daytime local calls made during a weekday cost 4p a minute after 28 June. Throughout Saturdays and Sundays local calls cost just 1p a minute - an average reduction of 22 per cent - subject to the 5p minimum charge. Previously, one 5p unit provided 3 minutes and 40 seconds of local call time at the cheap rate.
Residential customers would save a total of about £168 million in a year, or an average of £8.40 (ex VAT) for every customer. The savings would bring the average residential customer bill, including rental charges, down by 3.7 per cent, to £226.45 (ex VAT) a year. Call charges, excluding rentals, came down on average by 5.6 per cent.
Businesses enjoyed the remaining £142 million of reductions, an average of £22.75 (ex VAT) for every business line. The average bill for a business customer, also including rental charges, came down by 3.9 per cent to £509.50 (ex VAT) a year. The average business call bill, excluding rental, came down by 5.1 per cent.
BT public payphones continued to charge on the basis of a 10p unit, and some fixed-price calls, for example the 25p for a UK directory enquiry, and calls to some other more specialised services, were not affected by per second pricing. BT Chargecard calls used per second pricing, but different rates applied.
Since December 1993, BT had simplified charging and reduced prices by about £700 million, even before this latest reduction. These latest cuts meant that BT would have cut prices by more than £1 billion during the same period, and met its obligation to reduce prices by about £400 million in the year to July 31 1995, as agreed with the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel). Furthermore, more than £200 million of these reductions contributed towards the price cuts that BT needed to make in the year beginning on 1 August 1995, ensuring that customers would enjoy the earliest possible benefit from lower prices.
These latest price cuts meant that BT had reduced the average residential customer bill by 10 per cent since December 1993 and the average business bill had been cut by more than 13 per cent. Average call bills, excluding rentals, had fallen by 19 per cent for businesses and 17 per cent for residential customers over the same period.
Overall, bills had been reduced in real terms by 30 per cent for residential customers and 48 per cent for businesses since 1984.
A new discount scheme for business customers, BT Business Connections, was launched on 1 October. It gave a five per cent discount on direct dialled calls made to ten other numbers. It could be added to the discounts of up to 21 per cent available on BT's Business Choices Levels 1 - 5 schemes, to provide a maximum possible 26 per cent saving on the qualifying calls. There was a single joining fee of £10, excluding VAT, for each site covered. Customers could nominate which ten numbers they wished to be included for Business Connections discounts. Two could be international numbers. BT at the same time also increased the benefits of other discount schemes, Friends & Family, Business Choices, PremierLine and Option 15.
A report by management consultants Touche Ross the following year showed that small to medium business customers could save over 8 per cent on their phone bills by using BT rather than its competitor Mercury through BT's various discount schemes.
Business Connections was known as Key Numbers from May 1996 following the launch of the new Business Connections nationwide sales and support team dedicated to small to medium sized businesses.
From 17 July 1997, all ten nominated numbers under the Key Numbers scheme could be international, not just two as previously.
BT launched telephone number portability between its network and those of rival companies, following technical and customer trials during the summer. This was the first full-scale implementation in the world. The facility allowed customers to retain their number when they transferred between telephone companies. Technically, the call was first sent to BT and then sent on to a rival company where appropriate.
The first BT shop opened for business on the Internet in time for Christmas 1995. By taking space at BarclaySquare, Britain's most popular Internet shopping mall, BT could keep its shop open 24 hours a day to meet the Christmas rush.
Sir Peter Bonfield, the former Chairman of ICL, joined BT as Chief Executive on 2 January. He took up his post after the announcement the previous November that Sir Iain Vallance would be splitting the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive. Sir Iain continued as Chairman of BT. Sir Peter, knighted in the 1996 New Years Honours for services to information technology, promised a "roller coaster ride" for BT people as BT continued its global expansion. Sir Iain subsequently became part time Chairman from 31 July 1998.
During January and February, BT abolished the reconnection charge for residential customers at premises which still had all the phone wiring intact although service had been switched off at the BT exchange. This was a successful promotion which was taken up by over 82,000 households.
From 1 April 1999, BT scrapped the £9.99 reconnection charge for residential customers altogether. Taking over an existing BT residential line was now free, even if there was a break in service, so long as the old wiring was still in place.
Between May and July, BT ran a scheme for business customers which gave them the chance of a second phone line for half the usual price. The special offer applied to the second business line provided to customers at the same address, and covered installations made between 1 May 1 and 31 July this year. During this period customers could have the second line installed for just £49.50 instead of £99.
This offer was repeated for both business and residential customers in 1999. Between 1 April and 30 June 1999, residential customers could have a second exchange line installed for £49.50, instead of £99 incl. VAT. Business customers paid £49.50 excl. VAT, instead of £99 for an additional line.
Over the same period customers could also get connected to BT Highway and ISDN2 at half the usual price. The special offer of £50 (excluding VAT) off connection or conversion on all pricing options meant that customers taking the most popular options with inclusive calls would pay half the normal conversion charge.
BT added its pricing discount schemes with the introduction of the Corporate Choices package, which allowed discounts of up to 22.5 per cent for larger business customers. Corporate Choices benefited companies which operate over several sites with phone bills of more than £400,000 a year.
There was a £6,000 annual fee for Corporate Choices in addition to the relevant quarterly site fee. Corporate Choices replaced and improved upon Tiers 1 to 3 of the Business Choices 2000 Series of discount packages through a combination of bigger discounts and lower entry fees.
BT and its Globetel consortium partners announced in February the formation of a new company in Israel called Newtone - The Israeli Company For International Telecommunications Ltd. Trading as Newtone, the company was a joint venture between BT, MCI, and three Israeli partners; Tadiran Ltd. (Tadiran), Idan Software Industries I.S.I. Ltd. (Idan) and Darcom Ltd. (Darcom). It was to tender for one of two licences for international telecommunications services in Israel. The joint venture shareholding was BT 25 per cent, MCI 15 per cent and the three Israeli partners 20 per cent each.
BT launched its mass market Internet service on 29 March - BT Internet - announced on 26 February. It was aimed at residential and small business customers, as well as users new to the Internet. A full range of Internet services was offered, including world-wide electronic mail, file transfer, and access to vast quantities of information through the World Wide Web and discussion groups. Features included in BT's unlimited monthly service were five free e-mail boxes as standard, 2.5Mb of free Web space, and fast connection through 33.6 Kbps modems at local call rates.
BT Internet was competitively priced with a one off registration of £20 (incl VAT) and a flat monthly subscription fee of £15 giving unlimited use of all BT Internet services and applications. Alternatively, customers could pay an annual subscription fee of £150 giving them a discount of 16 per cent. BT Internet billed customers directly for their subscription only. Calls to service were charged at local rate throughout the UK and billed separately as part of the customer's regular phone bill.
BTnet, the Internet access service aimed and business customers and resellers continued to be available.
On 3 May, BT announced unlimited ISDN access to BT Internet at a monthly subscription of £23.50. This package was aimed at users who wanted faster access to stills, video clips and sounds found on the Web, but who found response times using conventional modems then available too slow. Such users included schools and universities, and teleworkers, and now had access to the Internet at a speed of 64kbps, more than twice the speed of the fastest modem connection then available.
Charges were reduced by over 20 per cent in January 1997; the one off registration charge of £20 was abolished, and the monthly subscription was reduced to £11.75.
The ISDN access option was halved at the same time to £11.75, and the subscription to customers who paid annually reduced to £129.25, equivalent to one month free.
In 1998 BT launched a pay-as-you-go service called BT Click for less frequent Internet users, followed by BT ClickFree in February 1999.
BT launched Business Connections on 7 May, a nationwide sales and support team dedicated to helping the UK's growing businesses to get the best out of their phones and to exploit the advantages of new telecoms technology. At the centre of BT Business Connections was a new, universal, free phone helpline - 0800 800 800, replacing "152" for all business customer enquiries. BT Business Connections provided expert advice and assistance for business customers who wanted to know more about any aspect of their telecommunications. Advice covered what was new in the world of computers, telephones, and information technology, to BT's range of price discount schemes that cut their phone bills.
BT acquired Bell Canada's 25 per cent stake in Clear Communications, New Zealand's second largest telecommunications company. BT joined existing shareholders MCI, Television New Zealand and Todd Corporation as an equal 25 per cent shareholder in the company.
BT appointed Global TeleSystems Group (GTS) in May as its distributor of Concert Services in the Czech Republic.
GTS CzechCom was a subsidiary of Global TeleSystems Group Inc. (GTS) of the US. The GTS Group operated in markets throughout Europe and Asia, with 18 businesses worldwide in 1996, and principal offices in Monaco, Brussels, Moscow, Beijing and Budapest. The company at that time operated the largest private VSAT (very small aperture) satellite network in Central and Eastern Europe.
It provided network and service solutions to government, commercial and telecommunications carriers using satellite, microwave, radio and fibre technologies.
BT launched its high-speed CellStream service - the UK's first national ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) service.
ATM was a key technology for future integrated multi-service communications as it was designed to handle, in a flexible, cost effective and scaleable manner, large volumes of Internet (IP) traffic and multimedia applications which were a mix of voice, data and image.
BT announced a programme to provide free conversion to modern plug and socket connections for customers who still rented phones with permanent direct wiring. The normal £29.38 conversion fee was waived during a special six-month offer from 16 September.
This promotion was aimed specifically at customers who still had direct wired phones, and as a consequence could not choose to buy or rent modern phones which provide access to newer services such as Caller Display, Call Waiting and Call Divert. Most telephones and accessories designed to meet the needs of customers with physical disabilities or sight and hearing impairments also require plug and socket connections. They include telephones with large buttons and inductive loop hearing assistance. Modern plug and socket connections also enable customers to join community alarm schemes for the elderly and those with disabilities.
BT already subsidised the price for plug and socket conversions by about £20 before this promotion. It also provides plug and socket connections free when a direct wired phone needs repair. Free conversion continued for vulnerable customers after the end of the special offer period. BT worked with Oftel and other representative consumer organisations to define which customers would be eligible.
Exchange line rentals from July 1 increased to £25.69 per quarter for residential customers, and £41.13 (£35 ex VAT) for businesses. The rental changes amounted to an increase of 3.7 per cent for residential customers and 2.4 per cent for businesses, and were below the 3.9 per cent increase to the Retail Price Index since they were previously last reviewed in February, 1995, when they had risen by 4.6 per cent. The latest increases amounted to less than 1p a day.
BT promised that no customer's bill would l increase by more than the current annual rate of inflation - 2.4 per cent in April 1996 - even with the new rental changes.
BT unveiled a new design for its public phoneboxes in July, following extensive research into customers' opinions. The new phonebox, designated the KX+ range and the first design for more than 10 years, was less angular, with a curved roof, and contained a small seat and a shelf for writing or placing a bag.
Other features were a lower handle on the outside of the door to help customers with disabilities and a new closing mechanism to make the door more robust. Payphone equipment inside took cash, phonecards, credit cards and chargecards, with these payment options clearly written on the outside of the box rather than using red or green colour coding which was the current practice.
Research for BT Payphones revealed widespread appreciation of the availability, maintenance and reliability of the existing payphones and the standards to which
they were maintained. Despite liking certain features of the stainless steel designs introduced from the 1980s, such as the fact that they were lighter, more airy and more accessible for people with disabilities than the traditional style, customers felt that there was still room for improvement. Popular opinion was that the square shape seemed clinical and that something softer and more rounded would be preferable. The colour of the phonebox itself, particularly the roof, had to satisfy a number of requirements, in particular it had to be practical to keep clean and bright enough for customers with visual impairments.
After a number of experiments, red proved to be the colour that best met the required criteria, with the added advantage that it reflected something of the character of the traditional red K6 kiosk designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s.
The new design resulted from collaboration between GKN, who manufactured the existing style of payphone, and the design agency DCA. It was also extremely cost effective to produce, as it used the same basic carcass as the existing payphone housing.
The first of the new look phoneboxes appeared on the streets in the early autumn, with approximately 5,000 installed over the next year.
BT and News International announced plans in September to launch Springboard Internet Services Ltd. (SISL) – a 50:50 joint venture company between BT and News International Ltd. providing an Internet service designed for the UK mass consumer market. LineOne, the brand name given to the service, delivered entertainment, information, home shopping and education to UK homes via the Internet.
Launched in January 1997, LineOne provided fast and easy access to content drawn from major News International and News Corporation brands, such as The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World.
A strategic collaboration with Microsoft was announced in August under which customers of BT's mass market dial-up Internet service - BT Internet - would be offered Internet Explorer 3.0, then the latest Internet browser from Microsoft.
BT introduced the International Weekend Rate on 7 September, cutting between five and 23 per cent off international calls made between midnight Friday and midnight Sunday.
BT had reduced its main prices by £1.3 billion over the previous three years and was committed to cutting at least £300 million more off prices over the next 12 months.
International weekend rate savings included:
BT's international Weekend Rate runs from midnight, Friday to midnight, Sunday. International calls made at weekends previously cost the same as those made during weekday evenings and at night-time. The Weekend Rate was not to apply to international calls made from BT public payphones or with BT Chargecards, to international ISDN and 0800 calls, or to INMARSAT and maritime services.
Further international call reductions were introduced to many daytime, evening and weekend calls on some of BT's most popular routes from 8 October.
These new cuts were all in addition to the ones introduced on 7 September when BT introduced the International Weekend Rate, and included:
Combined with BT's new International Weekend rate, these reductions meant that the cost of a call to the USA or Canada on a Saturday or Sunday had fallen by 31 per cent since the beginning of September 1996. Weekend calls to Australia or New Zealand had come down by 24 per cent overall during the same period.
BT cut national evening and night-time call charges by 20 per cent - from 5.9p a minute to 4.7p - from 8 October. At the same time, national daytime calls were cut by 10 per cent. Together with the reductions in international calls introduced at the same time, this resulted in a further £214 savings, bringing total price cuts to more than £1.5 billion in three years.
This was followed by a further 10 per cent cut to national daytime calls and a 3.8 per cent cut to regional daytime calls on 29 May 1997, also simplifying charging by creating a new single rate for all long distance UK daytime calls. In the past 18 months BT had also cut the cost of calls to every country in the world - some by up to 44 per cent.
BT went on to reduce the cost of national calls made during weekday evenings and nights by a further 10 per cent from 1 October 1997; in total a 28 per cent cut in a year. This meant that the cost of these calls came down from 4.7p a minute to just 4.2p.
At the same time, BT reduced the cost of daytime calls made to Cellnet and Vodafone cellular phones by 12 per cent - from 36.5p a minute to 32p - reflecting reductions in payments which BT made to the two mobile operators. BT charged by the second, and there was a 5p minimum charge for all calls.
Overall, BT's price cuts over the four years to 1997 meant that the average residential call bill came down by 32 per cent in real terms, while the average business call bill came down by 35 per cent.
Further cuts were introduced on 17 January 1998 when BT cut 10 per cent off the cost of long distance calls made within the UK at weekends. This reduced the cost of a weekend long distance regional or national call from 3.3p to 3p per minute, incl. VAT. This cost was further reduced with BT discount schemes.
BT and NS (Nederlands Spoorwegen) - the Dutch national railway network operator - celebrated the launch in September of their joint venture company in the Netherlands, formed in March the same year. The new company, called Telfort, B.V. was created to address the Dutch business community, and was jointly owned 50-50 by BT and NS.
Headquartered in Amsterdam, Telfort initially offered data, corporate voice and virtual private networks, as well as international voice and data services from Concert Communications Services. The company also offered management and outsourcing services.
Plans for Telfort to address the Dutch residential and mobile markets were also developed, with the firm intention of positioning the joint venture as the alternative telecommunications company in the Netherlands.
It was awarded a fixed licence in November 1997, and on 26 February 1998 the Dutch Government also awarded a mobile licence to Telfort. The award was for a national DCS 1800 mobile licence and was the result of a Government-conducted auction. Together with the fixed licence awarded the previous year, the mobile licence now enabled the company to develop integrated communications solutions tailored to the Dutch residential and business markets.
From 23 September, three pricing options were available to customers of ISDN 2 - BT's high speed digital communications service aimed at small to medium sized businesses, or branch offices of larger organisations - which had been launched five years previously.
Start Up was packaged for first-time users who, for a lower connection fee of £199 and higher rental, would receive a yearly call allowance of £90 for two years, and £210 a year thereafter. By spreading the cost over two years, businesses could save up to 14.5 per cent in the first year on previous ISDN 2 prices.
Fast Start was aimed at customers with experience of ISDN and others who were confident of their usage rates. For a connection fee of £680 and rental of £130 per quarter, Fast Start gave them a call allowance of £650 for the first year and £210 a year thereafter. This was a 25 per cent saving on previous ISDN 2 prices in the first year.
Low Start was targeted at low users or customers who used ISDN to provide back up for private circuit services. The connection charge remained unchanged, but rental was increased.
Existing customers could switch to the new Standard rental option comprising a quarterly rental of £130 and an annual call allowance of £210 per annum, saving more than eight per cent on previous ISDN 2 prices.
The introduction of call allowances made it easier for businesses to try out new and innovative applications. They complemented the on-going reduction of BT data call prices which had been reduced by more than 26 per cent in the previous three years and were among the cheapest in the world.
UK ISDN calls were priced at the same rates as normal telephony and all normal discounts applied. Consequently, ISDN users could save up to 31 per cent on BT's basic, regional, national and international call prices with its recently improved range of Business Choices packages. Customers could obtain an additional five per cent saving on 10 direct dialled calls with Key Numbers for an initial subscription charge of £10 (this fee was waived from 1 April 1999).
Customers could also take advantage of long term discounts for both ISDN 2 and ISDN 30 services, which were introduced on 1 January 1995. Companies which opted for three, four or five year contracts benefited from discounts on rental charges ranging from three, seven and ten per cent respectively.
Following concerns expressed by Oftel over potential difficulties to competitors, the pricing structure was amended from 3 October, whilst retaining its innovative features, benefits and customer choice;
The Start Up connection charge was unchanged at £199. The rental charge rose by £15 per year, offset by increases to the inclusive call allowance of £15 for each of the first two years and £20 thereafter.
The Fast Start connection charge fell to £500, the rental rose by £15 and call allowance fell to £355 in the first year and changes to £230 per year thereafter.
The Low Start connection charge remained unchanged, but the rental charge fell to £352 per year.
Eighteen of Europe's network operators formed a consortium to work on further research and development into ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technology and to continue experiments of advanced high-speed services and applications. Known as 'JAMES' (Joint ATM Experiment on European Services), it built on the success of the European ATM pilot which ran from July 1994 and December 1995.
ATM was the key enabling technology for future integrated broadband communications as it was designed to handle multimedia applications which are a mix of voice, data and image.
BT and New World in October announced that they had reached an agreement that ensured that customers had the benefit of both New World's new red livery phone box and BT's phone boxes throughout the country.
Earlier in the summer, BT had obtained an injunction to stop their competitors, New World Payphones, from using the old-style phone boxes designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the K2 and K6. New World wanted to put the old style phone boxes up in parts of London where the local planning authorities wanted to compel the installation of old style phone boxes at new sites.
Part of the agreement was that BT woul make available to NWP sites where BT's modern kiosk was already installed, so that planning authorities requirements did not prevent the public taking advantage of New World's service in the key tourist areas. At the same time, BT had the sole right to install the old phone box when appropriate.
Oftel's Advisory Committee on Telecommunications for Disabled and Elderly (DIEL) supported the action by the two telephone companies, pointing out that, although the traditional boxes may be pleasing to the eye, they can present problems to customers with disabilties.
BT launched Concert Packet Services in Greece in October and appointed Space Hellas SA as distributor.
This strategic alliance between BT and MCI progressed further with the announcement on 3 November 1996 that they had entered into a merger agreement to create a global telecommunications company called Concert plc, to be incorporated in the UK with headquarters in both London and Washington DC.
The merger with MCI would give BT's shareholders more exposure to the United States, the world's largest and most dynamic marketplace, together with the growth momentum and market expertise of MCI, known for its success in the competitive US long distance market. By combining with BT, MCI would gain access to BT's technical expertise in the provision of local market products and services, and the substantial financial resources and global position of BT.
The merger proposals subsequently met with approval from the European Commission, the US Department of Justice and the US Federal Communications Commission.
Nevertheless, BT ultimately decided on 9 November 1997 to sell its stake in MCI to the US company Worldcom for $7 billion or $51 per share. This followed Worldcom's successful rival bid for MCI on 1 October. Worldcom's offer, which was followed on 15 October by an unsuccessful counter bid from GTE, America's largest US based local telecommunications company, was made after BT and MCI had renegotiated the terms of the planned merger following a profits warning from MCI in July 1997.
Following the completion of the MCI-WorldCom merger on September 15, 1998, BT sold its 20 per cent holding in MCI to WorldCom. The proceeds totalled £4,159 million on which an exceptional pre-tax profit of £1,133 million was realised. In addition, BT had received a further $465 million severance fee on 12 November 1997 for the break up of the proposed merger. The settlement was hailed as an excellent deal, with immediate benefits to customers and investors.
Also following the completion of the Worldcom and MCI merger agreement in September 1998, BT acquired from MCI its 24.9 per cent interest in Concert Communications for £607 million. Now that Concert was wholly owned by BT, work was undertaken to ensure that the group's business would be fully independent of MCI. The costs involved in this work were estimated at £150 million over the next two years to March 2000.
BT was chosen as the prime contractor in November to work with the Ministry of Defence on an advanced national fixed telecommunications network for the UK armed forces.
The Defence Fixed Telecommunications System (DFTS) contract, worth an estimated £1 billion over ten years, was to deliver voice, data, LAN interconnect and other wide area networking services for the Navy, Army and Air Force. The integrated service was to be designed to improve inter-operability, resilience and operational effectiveness while cutting the MoD's ongoing costs.
BT's solution for DFTS harnessed the principles of the Government's Private Finance Initiative (PFI), and applied these for the first time in a telecommunications context. BT would have responsibility for the design, financing, operation and ongoing management of all DFTS services, giving guaranteed levels of performance and ensuring technology updates to let the MoD benefit from new developments.
BT and Tele Danmark were selected in December as the international partners for Newtelco which intended to become Switzerland's second licenced operator.
The Swiss founding companies of Newtelco were Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (the Swiss Federal Railways), Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund (the largest retailer in Switzerland), and Union Bank of Switzerland (the leading Swiss bank). BT and Tele Danmark would hold a significant minority stake, with the Swiss sponsors retaining the majority.
The agreement extended Tele Danmark's relationship with BT. Together with Telenor, the two companies had previously launched a joint venture, Telenordia, in Sweden. Tele Danmark were also distributors of Concert Services in Denmark.
Headquartered in Zürich, Newtelco planned to offer liberalised communications services in voice, data and multimedia services. Newtelco used the rights of way and fibre optic network of the Swiss Federal Railways as the backbone for its telecommunications network.
BT ran a "three for the price of two" twelve day Christmas and New Year phone call sale for its 20.5 million residential customers.
Promoted as the Seasonal Saver, this special offer applied to BT's regional and national longer-distance UK calls which were dialled direct from BT residential phone lines. It ran from Boxing Day until midnight on 6 January 1997.
Every third minute of a qualifying phone call during this period was free; after two minutes under the Seasonal Saver BT gave customers the third minute - or part of a minute - free. There was no time limit on calls, so the sixth minute, ninth minute, twelfth minute, and so forth, were all free.
BT acquired a significant stake in Bharti Cellular Ltd. (BCL), the largest mobile operator in India.
The BCL consortium then consisted of Bharti Group; STET of Italy; GMC - a subsidiary of CGE Group of France; Emtel - the cellular operator in Mauritius; and MSI UK.
The Indian Department of Telecommunications (DOT) had to approve BT taking over GMC, with its 22.5 per cent stake in BCL.
Oftel announced in January that code and local number changes would be required to create additional numbering capacity in London, Southampton, Portsmouth, Cardiff and Northern Ireland. These changes would take place on 22 April 2000.
Oftel's statement also identified cities and areas that could need additional capacity during the next 15 years.
In January 1998, Oftel added Coventry numbers to the list of those to be changed in 2000.
BT appointed EuroTel Bratislava as a distributor of Concert services in the Slovak Republic. EuroTel Bratislava now offered Concert Packet Services, in addition to the customer support it already provided to companies requiring international data services.
EuroTel Bratislava was a joint venture company involving Slovak Telecommunications and Atlantic West BV. BT chose the company because of its experience in the fields of international data and telecommunications services.
BT introduced further cuts to the cost of many overseas calls on 19 February, with some of the biggest reductions coming on calls to the most popular destinations, including key business routes. This meant that BT had reduced the cost of international calls by almost £170 million in just five months, following on from the introduction of the new International Weekend Rate introduced on 7 September and further reductions in October 1996.
Reductions covered calls to 33 countries, accounting for 60 per cent of all BT international calls, and included:
BT increased its stake in Airtel, the Spanish GSM mobile operator, to 15.8 per cent in March to become the second largest shareholder. It agreed to purchase the stake from Banco Santander which retained 5.5 per cent of the company.
By February 1999 BT's stake in Airtel, had risen to 17.8 per cent. The mobile communications company was Spain's second largest mobile network by this time, with more than two million customers.
BT announced on 13 March that it had teamed up with a consortium comprising Singapore Technologies Telemedia, Singapore Power, and NTT of Japan, with a view to bidding for Singapore's second telecommunications licence, to be awarded in 1998.
BT appointed Logic Telecom SA as a distributor of Concert services in Romania.
BT launched Wireplay, a nationwide dedicated computer games network which allowed players to compete with each other over the telephone network. Two or more people could play simultaneously in many of the most popular multi-player computer games.
One of the first multi media initiatives developed by BT, Wireplay allowed customers with a compatible game on their PC to access the system via a modem. Once logged on, the customer entered the Wireplay open forum and was able to challenge and play other players, or even join a league and play in teams.
First announced in September 1995, Wireplay was trialled from January 1996 by around 1500 people who were recruited to beta-test the system and the appeal of the service. The first fully compatible Wireplay game, a football game based on the Euro ‘96 tournament, was launched in June 1996.
Concert Communications launched a new offering, Concert Global Web Hosting Service, which speeded the flow of information over the Internet. It allowed businesses to host customer information on both sides of the Atlantic and brought the information closer to Internet users worldwide, speeding delivery time and easing network congestion.
The hosting service also provided powerful Intranet (‘private Internet') applications, enabling multinational businesses to distribute news and data more efficiently to employees worldwide.
The service utilised the worldwide managed Internet network that supported Concert Internet services. Concert Global Web Hosting was based on a single, globally distributed architecture as defined by Concert, which allowed consistent delivery of the same product set worldwide.
Concert Global Web Hosting was the first such service in the industry to offer a single point of contact for all technical support and customer service. Even with multiple web servers across the world, customers would gain efficiencies from having one point of contact and the convenience of a single bill in their local currency.
Initially, Concert Global Web Hosting included two products:
Concert Premium Hosting: offered customers a flexible web hosting solution on a shared server, with the ability to increase memory and bandwidth as the customer's web site grew.
BT completed its acquisition of 26 per cent in Cegetel for £1.1 billion in cash plus the share capital of BT France in late September, having made its initial investment earlier in the year. The original agreement with Compagnie Generale des Eaux was signed in September 1996. BT was CGE's main strategic partner in Cegetel. Other partners included SBC, formerly South Western Bell, and Mannesmann, the major German group. CGE was later known as Vivendi.
Cegetel's principal asset was initially its 80 per cent holding in SFR, the number two mobile operator in France with more than 2.6 million customers in June 1998 (doubled since February 1997 and more than tripled since September 1996 when it had 700,000 customers). Vodafone had a 20 per cent stake in SFR.
The new group was well positioned to be the main competitor to France Telecom. It provided the full range of telecommunications services in France, with mobile through SFR, as well as fixed services and paging.
In 1997 Cegetel won a fixed infrastructure licence, a local loop operator licence and business and residential service provider licence, in addition to its existing mobile licence. Its fixed operation provided a wide range of data and voice services to both the business and the residential market, but mainly to business customers from 1 January 1998, following the introduction of market liberalisation.
It planned to have at least 20 optical fibre loops in place to service business customers by the end of 1998. Cegetel had already rolled out three loops in Paris by June 1998, and planned to target Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg, connecting business customers to its national fibre optic backbone. (Cegetel had previously formed a joint venture company with SNCF, the French state railway, to build a 9,000 km fibre optic national backbone network). Concert would be an integral part of the new company's portfolio, giving Cegetel a significant advantage over all other competitors.
In June 1998 Cegetel announced that it had signed an agreement with America Online (AOL), Bertelsmann and Canal+ to create the country's leading provider of on-line Internet services.
BT was selected by PTA (Post and Telekom Austria) as its strategic global partner in March. PTA was to be the distributor in Austria for Concert Communications Services which by then had in all 44 distributorships worldwide. Shortly before, MDIS the former distributor of Concert services in Austria was merged into PTA's data communications division.
PTA had been a state-owned stock company since May 1996, although privatisation was planned. The company ran the Austrian telecommunications business as well as the postal and post-bus services. With around 54,000 employees, PTA's turnover in 1996 reached more than £3 billion. The telephone customer base had reached 3.9 million lines by the end of 1996, with most connected to digital network nodes. PTA's mobile phone company - Mobilkom Austria plc - served more than 600,000 customers.
BT created 2,000 jobs in the north of England with the opening of two telemarketing centres, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire and on North Tyneside. Costing £15 million each, they opened in the autumn. Advisers employed at the sites tried to ensure that customers took full advantage of BT's products and services, including its range of pricing discount packages, thereby increasing sales.
Under a strategic agreement, between Portugal Telecom, BT and MCI, Portugal Telecom became the exclusive distributor for Concert Communications Services' voice products in Portugal, enabling it to offer the most advanced portfolio of global communications services to multinational businesses.
BT, British Sky Broadcasting Group, Midland Bank and Matsushita Electric announced on 7 May the formation of British Interactive Broadcasting Limited ("BiB"), an independent company created to deliver digital interactive services to TV viewers in the UK.
BiB was to be owned 32.5 per cent each by BSkyB and BT, 20 per cent by Midland Bank and 15 per cent by Matsushita Electric.
The shareholders agreed, subject to certain conditions, pro rata funding of £265 million to establish the technological infrastructure for these services and to provide subsidies on digital satellite set top boxes capable of receiving BiB's services. The subsidy would allow the boxes to retail at about £200. BiB was projected to be profitable after five years and would use its revenues to continue the development of its technology and the market for digital set top boxes.
BT's investment in this market was supported by the Government's announcement in April 1998 of its intention to lift the restrictions on national telecommunications companies providing broadcast services to homes over their networks from 2001. This was welcomed by BT, particularly the clarification that broadcast services delivered over the Internet would not be considered as breaching the restrictions then in force. Customers of the new multimedia services would thus reap the same benefits of competition as telecommunications customers. Such services were never envisaged when the original broadcast ban was introduced.
In May 1998, BT gave undertakings to meet the concerns of the European Commission (EC) in approving the formation of BiB. As part of the approval package proposed by BiB and its shareholders to meet the Commission's concerns, third parties would have access to the BiB-subsidised set-top boxes and the software needed to create and run interactive services.
Also within the approval package was a proposal from BT to divest itself of its broadband cable TV interests in Westminster and Milton Keynes. The EC considered that BT's control of the existing broadband delivery mechanism in these areas raised competition issues in the light of BT's participation in BiB.
BT ran a "three minutes for the price of two" special offer on calls to Australia and New Zealand for its 20 million residential customers throughout July.
The Down Under Saver special offer - making every third minute free - applied to calls which were dialled direct from BT residential phone lines during the evening, night time and weekends. It did not apply to daytime calls or to any calls made from business lines.
Savings were credited automatically, and Down Under Saver calls highlighted on itemised bills. BT's discount schemes, which gave residential customers savings of up to 25 per cent on their calls, applied on top of the Down Under Saver special prices.
A six minute weekend call which would normally cost £2.39 cost just £1.59 during July - or as little as £1.19 with BT PremierLine and Friends & Family.
A six minute evening call came down from £2.52p to £1.68p, or just £1.26 with the discounts.
BT launched Ring Me Free, a personal free-call service for residential customers on 3 July. Ring Me Free customers pay for incoming calls made by their chosen friends and relatives. Calls cost the same as if they had been dialled directly, plus a 10p set-up fee per call.
Customers could give their Ring Me Free details to whomever they chose. That other person could then call them at their home whenever they wanted to talk and not have to worry about the cost.
Ring Me Free customers were provided with their own personal 12 digit code which they could give to those friends and relations from whom they welcomed a call.
Callers first dial a five-digit access code followed by the personal code: they did not need to dial the Ring Me Free customer's normal phone number, and they paid nothing for the call.
Ring Me Free could be used from any BT tone-dialling phone in a home or office. It did not work from BT public payphones, from mobile phones, or from outside the UK. Calls could not be made from other licensed operators' networks.
The new Labour Government relinquished in July its Special Share ("Golden Share"), retained at the time of the flotation, which had effectively given it the power to block a takeover of the company, and to appoint two non-executive directors to the Board.
Exchange line rentals were increased on 1 July. The new rentals were £26.62 per quarter for residential customers and £42.12 (£35.84 exc. VAT) for businesses. The rental changes amounted to an increase of about 1p a day, meaning bill increases of no more than the existing 2.4 per cent rate of inflation for almost all customers.
Overall, including the new rentals, the average residential bill had fallen by 3.22 per cent and the average business bill was down by 5.53 per cent since rentals last changed in July 1996.
As a result of repeated reductions, prices had fallen by more than £840 million in the year to March 31, 1997 and BT had saved customers about £2 billion in less than four years. Savings benefited both business and residential customers.
Since September 1993, the average residential bill had been brought down by more than 17 per cent in real terms and the average business bill had fallen by 27 per cent.
BT remained committed to keeping price changes for residential customers to 4.5 per cent below inflation each year until 2001. As a result, overall bills would continue to fall.
BT ran another special offer, Weekend Saver, for residential customers which cut the cost of UK calls during September. Long distance calls made from residential lines on every Saturday and Sunday in September cost just 1p a minute, the same as local calls. This was a 69 per cent reduction from the normal 3.3p a minute.
BT also ran a special offer for businesses during September. With the September Saver every local and long distance UK call made on business lines during the working day, between 8am and 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, received a 10 per cent discount on the normal price.
The various BT discount schemes for businesses gave further savings on top of September Saver.
BT introduced a new, simpler, tariff for calls made from its public payphones.
From 18 September, there were just two rates for all UK calls, local and long distance, and a single rate for calls to many international destinations.
The 10p minimum fee remained unchanged.
For each 10p unit, customers received 67 seconds of time for local calls, and 43 seconds for longer distance regional and national UK calls, at all times.
Simplification of BT payphones' international call prices also reduced charges on many routes, some by 50 per cent. From 18 September, there were also changes to the cost of credit and debit card calls made from BT payphones. All local calls were charged at 10p a minute with regional and national calls costing 20p a minute. The minimum charge remained at 50p.
BT daytime rate applied from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday; evening and night-time was from 6pm to 8am, Monday to Friday; weekend rate was from midnight Friday to midnight Sunday.
Both business and residential customers could take advantage of another BT promotion by having a second phone line installed for half the usual price from 1 October to 31 December.
The special offer applied to the second line provided at the same address. During this period customers could have a second line installed for just £58.16 instead of £116.33 (£49.50 instead of £99 excluding VAT).
The special offer would cut the cost of phone connections for companies which were looking to expand and to improve their service to customers. BT estimated that nearly one in every four calls to businesses did not get through, often because someone was already on the phone. A second line could turn failed calls into successful sales. For families, a second line meant that other members could have access to their own phone.
BT introduced its first ever electronic payment option on 18 September for residential customers - the BT Payment Card. The card was designed for use with the new national bill payment network, PayPoint, which was also launched earlier this month.
The BT Payment Card allowed customers to pay money towards their bills in corner shops, filling stations, newsagents and a host of other local outlets as well as through most post offices and BT shops. The card was swiped through a terminal and the amount paid towards the bill registered. A receipt confirmed the amount.
BT sent application forms to millions of customers over the following months, on a region by region basis. A successful trial of the BT Payment Card and the PayPoint network was run in Northern Ireland the previous year.
The card was particularly targeted at the UK's four million households, out of a total of 23 million, that only used cash to pay their phone bills, as well as for those without a bank account.
Concert Communications Services launched Remote Internet Access on 18 September. This new service provided remote users and business travellers with secure global access to the Internet, and Internet-connected LANs and Intranets, at intra-country rates.
It offered significant savings and eliminated the need for expensive international calls to access domestic networks remotely.
Remote Internet Access was available initially via more than 800 points-of-presence in 50 countries. It represented a versatile global value-added service for Internet service providers and multinational customers, who wanted to extend their network capabilities internationally without investing in additional infrastructure.
In conjunction with Concert Internetplus Service, launched in June 1996, it allowed remote offices and mobile workers to connect to their corporate networks via the Internet or simply to access information from the World Wide Web.
BT introduced a new European compliant version of ISDN 2, its high speed digital communications service, from 13 October. ISDN 2e became BT's standard offering for all new provision of ISDN 2 'basic rate' lines. ISDN 2e interworked with BT's existing ISDN 2 service for both voice and data calls. Customers of ISDN 2 would continue to be supported for as long as they wanted the service.
ISDN 2e complied with the latest European standard and was designed to encourage further the introduction of low cost European customer premises equipment into the UK. New features of ISDN 2e available at launch included a multiple subscriber numbering option (MSN), allowing customers to choose from two, three, eight or ten numbers on each line and a new BT-assisted call forwarding facility for both voice and data calls.
The ISDN 2 and ISDN 2e services were fully compatible for voice and data calls: both offered a digital line comprising two 64Kbps channels into customer premises and supported many applications including file transfer and video conferencing as well as Internet access and voice calls. In fact, both complied with international standard 1420, but ISDN 2 was introduced before the completion of the latest European ISDN standards. As a result, small technical differences existed between the two, which was removed by the introduction of ISDN 2e.
Future planned developments for ISDN 2e included call waiting for four calls at a time, call hold, customer control of call forwarding and call deflection - a service by which calls could be forwarded depending on their calling line identities.
Initially, there was little difference between the two services and the ISDN2 continued to represent value for money. Customers who wished to upgrade, however, were able to do so at a cost of £80 per connection. This charge contributed towards the actual cost of upgrading the customer's line.
BT announced on 10 November 1997 its intention to sell its stake in MCI to the US company Worldcom for $7 billion. This followed Worldcom's successful rival bid for MCI on 1 October. Worldcom's offer, which was followed on 15 October by an unsuccessful counter bid from GTE, America's largest US based local telecommunications company, was made after BT and MCI had renegotiated the terms of the planned merger following a profits warning from MCI in July 1997.
BT announced in November that it planned to license its trademark Gilbert Scott K6 payphone kiosk for use by competitors. The move was to promote competition where planning requirements by local authorities prevented other operators siting their modern kiosks. Licences were issued on condition that the operators used a colour other than red, and that it was evident that an operator other than BT was providing the service.
BT was previously reluctant to allow use of the K6 design by other operators because of its strong association with the company and because the kiosk provided restricted access for customers with disabilities.
Following a dispute with a competitor in 1996, BT introduced a policy of site swapping. If another provider wished to install payphones in areas where local planning authorities insisted on the K6 design, BT offered the other operator one of its nearby existing non-K6 sites instead. The first site swapping agreement was established between BT and New World Payphones in October 1996.
BT and the Republic of Ireland company Electricity Supply Board (ESB) announced on 9 December that they had reached agreement in principle to form a joint venture to offer communications services in Ireland, Western Europe's fastest growing economy.
BT Key Countries was launched on 1 January, a new discount package which gave a 15 per cent discount on existing prices - BT basic prices or those already benefiting from BT's discounts. Customers could nominate up to 10 countries from a choice of 30 of the main international destinations for UK businesses.
Key Countries gave substantial savings on basic prices combined with BT's existing Business Choices and Key Numbers discount schemes. It cost £7.50 per quarter for each nominated country - or £25 per quarter for a package of five countries.
On 1 January, BT also introduced Friends & Family Country Calling Plans to give residential customers even bigger savings on calls to many countries. This scheme was aimed at residential customers who spent more than £5 a month on direct dialled calls to a particular country. For a fee of just £1 a month, customers could save 25 per cent on calls to a country of their choice at all times. Customers could nominate up to five countries, paying the £1 monthly fee for each country. The saving could be combined with PremierLine and Friends & Family schemes to give discounts of more than 43 per cent on BT basic prices, for qualifying calls.
Daytime calls to Japan were brought down on 1 January by 12.3 per cent from 77p a minute to 67.5p; evening and night time calls came down by 21.7 per cent, from 73.2p per minute to 57.3p; and weekend calls came down by 21.8 per cent from 69.5p to 54.3p per minute.
Also from 1 January, the basic cost of weekend calls to BT's International Charge Band 1a, which covered France, Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany, came down from 23.4p to 23.2p per minute, a 1.1 per cent reduction.
Weekend calls to Australia and New Zealand in Charge Band 6 came down from 39.7 to 39.2p - or 1.4 per cent.
BT also ran a special offer on weekday calls to Australia and New Zealand throughout September this year, with savings of up to 40 per cent on the basic price for its residential customers. All calls made on Mondays to Fridays during the month cost 30p per minute at BT's basic rate - saving 40 per cent on the normal daytime price of 49p per minute and 30 per cent on the evening and night-time rate of 42p per minute.
BT announced in January accelerated investment plans of more than £200 million to boost capacity and further improve service in its fast-growing inbound telephone services such as 0800, 0345 and 0990. These are numbers were used by companies to make it easier for their customers to contact them.
Resumption of normal business on 5 January 1998 after a two-week break for most of the UK, combined with widespread gale damage and flooding, resulted in four times the usual number of calls on these lines and many callers were unable to get through in the normal way. BT wrote to companies affected, inviting them to be involved in BT plans to develop technical features, provide extra capacity and add safeguards to the system. BT planned a £110 million investment over the next financial year alone, introducing measures aimed at ensuring that service would not be affected in the same way if ever such exceptional circumstances occurred again.
BT cut 10 per cent off the cost of long distance calls made within the UK at weekends on 17 January. This reduced the cost of a weekend long distance regional or national call from 3.3p to 3p per minute, incl. VAT. This cost was further reduced with BT discount schemes. This reduction in UK call charges was the latest of several introduced over the previous few years (see 1996 entry).
The final stage of the Reading code and number change took on 9 January. From that time phone users had to dial the new code (0118) and add a 9 to the beginning of all six-digit Reading numbers. Both old and new number systems had been running in parallel since April 1996, giving customers almost two years to make the necessary changes to their telephone equipment, stationery, signs and vehicle liveries. The changes had been introduced by the telecommunications industry to accommodate the rapid increase in demand for numbers in the Reading area, running at about three times the national average. They increased the capacity of Reading area phone numbers tenfold.
Later in January Oftel announced that changes would be required to numbers in the Coventry 01203 area to cater for demand. On 22 April 2000, Coventry's 01203 dialling code was to change to 024, and "76" would be added to the front of existing six digit local numbers. This meant that Coventry 01203 123456 would become 024 7612 3456.
BT launched a pay-as-you-go service called BT Click for less frequent Internet users. The service was subscription free, and customers were charged for access at local call rates, plus one penny per minute.
In February 1999, BT launched a revised pay-as-you-go service called BT ClickFree, the only free UK Internet service which required no registration. Customers could access the Internet simply and easily when they chose, paying only the cost of a local call or less if they belonged to one of BT's call discount schemes, such as Friends & Family and PremierLine. BT also teamed up with Value Direct to give BT ClickFree users the ability to shop online for a range of products at lower prices than through any other access service or traditional high street retailer. BT ClickFree included information and entertainment content from Excite, the US based global Internet media company. (BT had secured for $10 million a fifty per cent stake in 1998 in Excite's subsidiary, Excite UK). Also included was BT's free e-mail address service, talk21, which was upgraded to POP3 in March 1999 to allow users to read and write e-mails offline.
A £300 million network modernisation programme to support the rapid growth in Internet and data communications services was announced by BT on 2 February. These services are expected to account for about 90 per cent of all corporate communications traffic by the year 2003. This investment would be used to develop and expand BT's existing high-speed, high-capacity broadband multi-service network. BT already had the biggest network of this kind in Europe, offering high-speed services to the finance, retail, IT, education, manufacturing and media sectors. This investment enabled BT to continue leading the implementation of a national broadband infrastructure for the integration of voice, data and video applications over a single network . BT would create a common multi-service broadband network to meet demand by business and residential customers up to the millennium and beyond. It would use the latest ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technology, and was an expansion of BT's high-speed CellStream service - the UK's first national ATM service.
Building on ATM experience gained since the launch of the CellStream service in June 1996, BT planned to invest in growing and developing that network to support its existing and future broadband communications services. Among the first services to be migrated onto this multi-service network were to be BT's first broadband data service - Switched Multi-megabit Data Service (SMDS) - to be followed by Frame Relay as well as BT's range of Internet products and services. By delivering many products and services from a single managed network infrastructure, BT would be able to respond more quickly to changes in customer demand between the existing products, as well as reducing its ‘time to market' for future services and capabilities.
A further £800 million network expansion programme to meet the expected increase in demand for data communications and Internet services was announced by BT on 13 May. This investment in the latest communications transmission equipment was on top of the £300 million investment announced in February for sophisticated switching equipment. These two elements would enable BT's core network to meet the demands of the emerging information society for ‘next generation' Internet, Intranet and multimedia services. It would support new applications such as electronic trading, mobile and broadband data integration and digital broadcasting.
The rapid growth in the use of Internet, company Intranets and multimedia services in the business and residential markets from the early 1990s was the direct cause of these investments. In announcing this latest investment, BT stated that it expected the volume of traffic generated by the UK multimedia market, including Internet distribution and service provision, to start to match the number of telephone calls by the year 2003.
The £800 million was to be used to extend significantly the reach of BT's core Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) optical fibre transmission network and exploit emerging Dense Wave Divisional multiplexing (DWDM) technology. These technologies enabled BT to increase the capacity of its core network almost without limit. BT already had the biggest network of this kind in the UK and Europe. The UK core network carried data communications up to 124 gigabits in 1998, and comprised three and half million kilometres of optical fibres, the highest amount of fibre per customer in Europe.
The investment programme announcement featured three distinct technologies;
Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH)
BT pioneered the introduction of SDH in 1993 and by 1998 had the UK's largest SDH network with more than 400 nodes carrying private circuits, Internet Protocol (IP) traffic and other data services.
SDH was the new world standard for digital transmission used in core communications networks over which broadband, video, data and voice services run. It provided reliable and responsive transmission network infrastructure for broadband traffic. SDH networks could repair themselves in the event of a fault, and could be more easily re-configured in event of failure, enabling BT to provide a more flexible and reliable service to its customers.
SDH technology also provided a more reliable and responsive transmission system and, as a result, a customer was unlikely to experience a network fault more than once every ten years depending on configuration.
The planned investment would more than treble the deployment of SDH with the installation of an additional 1,000 nodes. This would allow BT to continue to provide businesses with high-speed communications services to many more locations as well as support advanced access services to the home.
Wave Divisional/Dense Wave Divisional Multiplexing (WDM/DWDM)
WDM/DWDM uses multiple wavelengths, or colours of light, to carry many channels of digital information at once over each physical fibre, providing a huge increase in bandwidth. BT was already taking full advantage of the huge opportunities provided by this technology in its existing network.
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM)
This latest investment was over and above the £300 million BT announced in February 1998, which was targeted at developing and enhancing BT's ATM-based Multi-Service Network. It gave BT the ability to switch Internet and data communications services carried by the SDH network direct to customers' premises without loss of speed.
Since privatisation, BT had invested more than £30 billion in its network and led the way in providing innovative telecommunications services for customers. Together with earlier investments in optical fibre and digital communications equipment, BT's core network would be able to carry a massive number of voice, data and Internet calls. The network would grow to offer transmission speeds at hundreds of gigabits per second - equivalent to millions of simultaneous voice, data and Internet calls. It would lead to the introduction of intelligent applications, so the network would start to do things for customers automatically. For example, it could book domestic appointments, or make flight reservations.
BT announced further network development on 3 February 1999. It revealed that BeTaNet, an advanced Internetworking Protocol (IP) and multimedia network, was now operational, and that services would be rolled out over the next few months.
BeTaNet enhanced the functionality of BT's already extensive fibre optic network. It would offer customers virtually unlimited bandwidth over a single link for simultaneous voice, data, video and Internet services. Supporting services such as electronic commerce and business, digital broadcasting, interactive call centres and new Intranet-based solutions for commercial and industrial customers, it was to be fully integrated with more than 20,000 existing fibre nodes, with over 300 more being added each month.
BeTaNet, compatible with the conventional telephone network, was a product of major investments in advanced switching and transmission equipment. BT announced further investment plans for £5 billion over the next five years from 1999 for extensions and enhancements to support data and multimedia services, in addition to the more than £1.1 billion in related investment that had been announced during 1998. Together with its advanced European high capacity network, which BT built with its European partners during 1998 and 1999 (see separate entry this year), BeTaNet was to create the platform for one of the most up to date and extensive data communications networks.
Over time, the need for multiple telephone lines and separate high-speed data networks would be reduced, and a wide range of multimedia services such as Intranets, electronic commerce, voice-over-IP, interactive television and broadband data would all be delivered in an integrated format.
Like the pan European network announced in 1998, the BeTaNet network was based on leading-edge Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) and dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) technologies. Until now investment in SDH had been in the core of BT's UK network, but this new network forged the crucial link that would bring SDH within the reach of most business customers. It was expected to enable BT to provide and manage resilient, high-bandwidth services based on IP protocols direct to 98 per cent of UK businesses over a single connection.
When integrated with the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) broadband access being deployed in West London in 1998 and 1999 (see separate entry this year), this technology would bring broadband communications within reach of most residential customers. It would form a key part of the future broadband platform for BT's access network, which would meet growing customer demand for access to higher capacity networks and higher speed services.
Network investment to meet the explosive demand for high-speed data services continued in 1998 with the announcement from BT and its European partners on 12 June that they were to combine to form the largest pan-European communications network. By connecting the in-country networks and using the latest technology, BT, Concert Communications Services, the global services company, and their European partners would enjoy substantial operating efficiencies and economies of scale. They would also be able to offer their customers a new range of multimedia services such as high-speed private circuits, Internet backbones, Intranets and enhanced broadcast services.
In February 1999, BT and its European partners revealed that the pan-European communications network was undergoing stringent trials, and on 11 March 1999 they began carrying live customer traffic over the 45,000 km network. At launch, seven European operators - BT, Albacom (Italy), BT Belgium, Sunrise (Switzerland), Telfort (Netherlands), Viag Interkom (Germany) and Cegetel/Telecom Developpement (France) - had linked their networks. In less than eight months, BT and its partners had implemented more than 9,000 km of fibre, connecting the 36,000 km of fibre within the networks of BT's family of operating alliances to form Europe's biggest transborder network. Phase two of the network build would include roll-out in Ireland, Spain and the Nordics, and phase three would extend to Southern and Eastern Europe. Through the deployment of Nortel (Northern Telecom) SDH and DWDM technology, the network would be optimised to deliver 160Gbit/s of capacity per fibre pair with the ability to increase transmission to 320Gbit/s in the future.
BT announced on 10 February that it intended to be the first European communications company to join the Universal ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) Working Group (UAWG), driving world standards for DSL Lite. This group comprised Microsoft, Compaq, Intel and a number of United States communications companies and equipment suppliers.
ADSL technology, manufactured by Westell International, was applied by BT in its Interactive TV trials in Colchester and Ipswich in East Anglia, and video-on-demand trials by BT's subsidiary Westminster Cable, in 1995.
ADSL connections from homes and small businesses enabled broadband speeds via the existing copper wire access. Once again the application of technology made use of the existing physical network but in a new way, so that users would be able to experience truly high-speed Internet connections at up to 40 times the speeds of conventional modern modems. Telephone calls could be made simultaneously.
In September 1997 BT announced that, as part of the next phase in its development of high-speed interactive networks and services, it was inviting companies in the service and content provider industries to take part in a trial in West London during 1998. The trial was based on ADSL technology, supplied to BT by a consortium led by Alcatel and Fujitsu, and built on BT's interactive television trials already mentioned, which successfully demonstrated a sustainable market for interactive services. Since those trials, there had been an increasing shift towards the Internet's importance as a delivery mechanism, and it had now become an intrinsic part of BT's plans.
DSL Lite, a lower cost development of ADSL technology, worked up to 30 times faster than most existing modems, but operated on an existing copper telephone network. It would be compatible with the standardised ADSL line cards which BT planned to install in exchanges. The DSL Lite development had the advantage that the equipment at the customer's home could be built into a PC, in the same manner as modems previously, and plugged into an ordinary telephone socket.
BT launched a six month trial in February of a revolutionary new payment service, BT Array, for Internet users who wished to make small value purchases. BT Array was aimed at Internet users who wished to buy goods, services, information or software that were priced between a few pence and a few pounds. The service provided an easy, secure and economical way of making these ‘micropayments'. Customers first registered via the Internet and forwarded their credit card details and their e-mail address on-line, a once-only process over secure facilities. Users chose their own account name and password when they registered, and were then able to purchase items from any merchant displaying the BT Array micropayment logo. BT Array then consolidated the account and charged it to the customers' VISA or Mastercard periodically. BT Array users could manage their accounts and make purchases from any World Wide Web access device. In addition, they could see their own credit balance and get a listing of their purchases on-line.
The cost of a directory enquiry rose from 25p incl. VAT to 35p on 18 February to reflect an £84 million investment in new technology over the following year to further improve the service (see 1991 and 1994 entries). International directory enquiry charges on '153' rose from 60p to 80p per enquiry at the same time.
BT launched a new 'no frills' service on 19 February to help customers who had difficulty affording standard prices to be on the phone. For a quarterly line rental of £9.25, customers of BT In-Contact could receive all incoming calls, but be restricted to the emergency and BT operator services for outgoing calls. Customers joining BT In-Contact pay a joining fee of £9.99. The quarterly rental of £9.25, payable in advance, compares with the standard residential rental of £26.62, and the minimum payable under BT's Light User Scheme of £10.24.
BT In-Contact was available only on single residential exchange lines, and not on lines connected to payphones or those used exclusively in connection with a burglar alarm or other monitoring service. It could not be used as an additional line in households with a telephone service from another source, including mobile. Outgoing calls were restricted to 999, 112, 150, 151 and 12822 (BT's Ring Me Free service. BT continued to run the Light User Scheme, which offered a rebate based on call bill size for residential customers who wanted to make a few calls.
BT confirmed its presence in the Millennium Dome and announced an imaginative e-mail initiative at the national launch with Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Royal Festival Hall on 24 February. BT announced a £12 million in the national Millennium programme.
BT planned to offer a free e-mail address service for everyone in the UK as a legacy of the nation's Millennium celebrations, and to improve technology access and communication skills. Originally known as Mill-e-Mail, the service was later marketed as talk21 and was based on the World Wide Web to give users complete mobility with a globally accessible e-mail directory and a free e-mail address. The service was ideal for those who already had an e-mail account at the office but wanted a personal account, as well as for those who shared e-mail at home through the typical package of services offered by Internet service providers. It would also appeal to mobile professionals, students, and even people without computers who could get access to the Internet in cafés, libraries, airports and, later, through television sets.
Internet use was set to become increasingly prevalent with the launch of the Department of Trade and Industry initiative 'IT 4 All' which was sponsored by BT, and would establish up to 4,000 additional venues where the public could get access to the Internet.
talk21 was to be open to anyone over the age of nine and to help people to make and maintain contact with each other, wherever they might live.
BT had studied the Millennium project for two years and was convinced there were good reasons for the company playing a significant part in the celebrations. BT would focus its Millennium activities, both in the Dome and across the nation, on helping the UK to become the world's best communicating society.
The Dutch Government awarded a mobile licence on 26 February to , the joint venture company established between BT and NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch national railway company).
BT and the Directorate General of Telecommunications P&T, China (China Telecom) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in London on 17 March with the purpose of encouraging better co-operation and understanding between the two companies. The agreement, which sought to encourage a closer mutual working relationship, was to allow the two companies to co-operate and share advice in the areas of technology and business opportunities.
A single industry-wide dialling code was introduced in March that would help customers to identify services such as information, competition and entertainment lines. BT welcomed the development, stating that moving all such services to a single 09 prefix was a positive step that would enable customers to make an informed choice based on easy recognition of both the nature and the cost of these calls. However, BT was very concerned that customers should not lose the high level of consumer protection that customers had enjoyed since 1992, from when BT offered a range of options that allowed customers to choose the types of service that could be accessed from their lines. In 1992, BT responded to customer demand by introducing a free facility for customers to restrict access to information and entertainment services from their lines.
In 1994, BT introduced a free PIN number "opt-in" facility for customers who wished to access adult services from their lines. The Department of Trade and Industry approved this proposal and 50 MPs signed an early day motion in support.
In welcoming the latest development, BT announced that it did not seek to censor the provision of adult services if there was genuine consumer demand. BT believed that the free "opt-in" facility struck the right balance between those who wished to access such services and the majority of customers who preferred access to be restricted from their lines.
BT launched two new discount schemes on 1 April which would bring significant savings to UK businesses on their regional and national calls:
BT Key Cities gave a 15 per cent discount on the cost of the calls they made to those cities which they called regularly. Key Cities cost £2.50 per quarter per site for each city nominated, or £10 per quarter for a block of five cities. Customers could nominate up to five cities from a list of 30 of the UK's most frequently called centres.
BT Key Regions gave the same discount on calls within their own region. Key Regions cost £7.50 per quarter for each site and covered regional and national calls made within the customer's own region, broadly based on the Government's new Regional Development Agency areas in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Both schemes provided discounts on regional calls up to 35 miles and national calls over 35 miles. These discounts did not apply to local calls, but to regional and national calls dialled directly by customers. Customers could join both Key Cities and Key Regions but only one of the discounts applied to any call. Both provided for even more substantial savings - up to 42 per cent - when combined with BT's existing Business Choices and Key Numbers discount schemes. This meant that for a business that already had BT Business Choices Level 1 and Key Numbers schemes, national daytime calls cost just 3.9p per minute with either Key Cities or Key Regions. This was an overall saving of 42 per cent on BT's basic price of 6.8p per minute.
BT launched Schools Internet Caller on 20 April, a new service offering affordable access to the Internet for Britain's 32,000 schools.
Oftel had accepted on 6 October 1997 BT's pricing proposals which would allow schools across the country access to the Internet for £445 a year. Using ordinary telephone lines, schools would be allowed unlimited access for up to 10 hours every school day. BT would also offer low cost high-speed digital access to the Internet using ISDN lines for £790 a year. This would also give unlimited access between 8am and 6pm on school days. There would be no separate connection charge.
BT's proposals had been the result of detailed discussions between BT, the rest of the telecommunications industry, the education sector and Oftel. Both BT's offers, only available to schools, allowed the freedom to choose any Internet service provider. The 2,000 schools which already accessed the Internet on BT lines would also be able to take advantage of the new prices.
Schools Internet Caller reflected the Government's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's commitment to education, and their recognition that telecommunications technology was central to transforming the quality of teaching and learning in schools. BT Chairman Sir Iain Vallance had warmly supported this the previous month, and Schools Internet Caller was BT's response to the Government's drive to kick start the use of information technology in the UK's 32,000 primary and secondary schools. Schools Internet Caller was a significant step towards the realisation of the Government's pledge of getting all Britain's primary and secondary schools wired to a National Grid for Learning by 2002.
BT, in a consortium comprising NTT of Japan, Singapore Technologies Telemedia, and Singapore Power, was awarded a fixed and a mobile telecommunication licence by the Singapore government on 23 April. Under the terms of the licence, the company would begin services on 1 April 2000 (see entry).
BT launched a national telephone helpline service for its Hindi-speaking customers in the UK on 28 April. Hindi-speaking BT customer service advisers, based in Colindale, north London, answered calls to the helpline which operated between 8am and 8pm, Mondays to Saturdays. The Asian helpline, on 0800 401 000, advised customers about all aspects of BT's service for residential customers, including latest news about BT's best price deals for all their needs.
BT introduced its latest price cut on 29 April in its ongoing programme to bring down the cost of calls. Henceforward, the cost of local calls made on evenings and overnight, Monday to Friday, came down by 10 per cent, from 1.7p a minute to 1.5p, incl. VAT. With this latest cut, a five minute call made between 6pm and 8am during the week cost just 7.5p. PremierLine and Friends & Family discounts brought the cost down to only 5.6p.
In announcing this latest saving, BT highlighted the added value to customers because of the size of UK local call areas. BT's London local area covered about 9.5 million people and, at 1,265 square miles, was six times the size of the New York local call area. Around the UK, the average local call area covered almost a thousand square miles, the size of the area within the M25. For example, the Nottingham local call area covered 1.3 million people in an area of almost 1,100 square miles, five times the size of the New York local call area. Since December 1993, BT had cut prices by more than £2 billion. In real terms, these cuts resulted in an average reduction of 34 per cent on international calls, 45 per cent on national calls over 35 miles, 28 per cent on regional calls under 35 miles, and almost 25 per cent on local calls (see entry).
BestFriend was introduced from 1 May, giving a 20 per cent reduction on one of the customer's ten specified numbers, instead of the usual ten per cent, so long as it not an international or mobile number.
New packages of special offers for businesses on international calls to Australia, France and Germany were introduced during April and May.
Throughout April, the cost of all business calls to Australia made on weekdays between 6pm and 9pm was reduced by 20 per cent.
Also during April, businesses could talk for as long as they wish to Germany - up to eight hours - at any time on weekdays, for a maximum of £5 - or just £3.40 with BT Business Choices Level 1 and Key Numbers discounts.
BT and Marubeni Corporation formed a joint venture in Japan in May to provide domestic and global communications services. The joint venture company was called BT Communications Ltd. The new company was the result of an agreement the previous March which anticipated the merger of Network Information Service (NIS), in which BT had a 36 per cent stake and Marubeni 41 per cent, with BT Japan on 1 April to form BT Network Information Service (BT NIS). The new enlarged company was owned 51 per cent by BT, 31 per cent by Marubeni and 18 per cent by minority shareholders. BT NIS would provide companies in Japan with the full range of domestic and international products and services previously available from NIS as a Type 2 licenced carrier. (Type 2 licence holders leased infrastructure from Type 1 licenced carriers).
In the event, BT NIS became a wholly owned subsidiary of BT Communications Services (BTCS), which was the main joint venture company created in May, 70 per cent owned by BT and 30 per cent by Marubeni. On 28 July 1998, BTCS was granted a Type 1 facilities-based telecommunications licence by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) in Japan. The licence allowed it to build and own its own infrastructure, an international network and fibre optic ring in Tokyo.
Following a pilot scheme in 3,000 kiosks in the Meridian TV area in May, BT announced that companies would be able to advertise their products and services inside 50,000 of its public payphone kiosks.
- BT's joint venture company in France - announced in June that it had signed an agreement with America Online (AOL), Bertelsmann and Canal+ to create the country's leading provider of on-line Internet services.
BT made an agreement with Sri Lanka's national telephone operator, Sri Lanka Telecom, to distribute managed data services, Concert Communications Services, from the end of May.
A three month programme was launched in June by BT using its telemarketing expertise to assist the Government's New Deal project.
Staff at BT's Connections in Business telemarketing centre in Dundee called up to 10,000 small and medium enterprises to seek new opportunities for jobseekers. The programme was undertaken in conjunction with the Employment Service.
BT and AT&T announced on 26 July that they would create a $10 billion global venture to serve the complete communications needs of multinational companies and the international calling needs of individuals and businesses around the world. The venture would offer communications services of an unprecedented scale, scope and level of quality.
The venture would combine the trans-border assets and operations of each company, including their existing international networks, all of their international traffic, all of their international products for business customers, BT's global solutions company Concert Communications Services, and BT and AT&T's multinational accounts in selected industry sectors.
The two companies would also develop an intelligent managed Internet protocol-based global network to be implemented by the venture, its parents and their partners.
Owned equally by BT and AT&T, the venture in its first full year of operation was expected to have revenues of more than $10 billion, growing thereafter in excess of 15 per cent a year. Operating profits were expected to be around $1 billion in the venture's first full year, growing at 15 to 20 per cent a year.
Through the venture, BT and AT&T aimed to be the undisputed leaders in the fast-growing global communications services market.
The venture, which was to be named later, would be free-standing with its own chief executive officer (named in March 1999 as David Dorman, president and chief executive of PointCast, the US Internet based broadcast news company), and its own management team. Its Board of Directors would comprise executives from both parent companies. Sir Iain Vallance would be the venture's first chairman.
With its operational headquarters in the eastern US, the venture would initially employ about 5,000 people worldwide. It would have its own sales force to serve directly corporate customers in selected industry sectors around the world.
The venture would stimulate competition in recently liberalised markets by supporting new competitive operators around the world. Many of them would be distributors for the new venture and all would be potential customers for its carrier services.
The venture would manage its correspondent international network which reached 237 countries and territories, and its managed network which had 6000 nodes in 52 countries covering nearly 1000 cities worldwide.
Both companies emphasized their concern that customers of their existing alliances would be served effectively and continuously. To that end, when BT completed its purchase of MCI's interest in Concert in September 1998, AT&T was appointed a non-exclusive distributor of Concert services in the US on 11 November. From that date, AT&T sold the Concert portfolio of international voice, data and Internet Protocol (IP) services, marketed under the AT&T Concert brand. MCI would remain a non-exclusive distributor of Concert until November 2000.
Between the announcement and the closing of the agreement, the two companies would align their international operations, strategies and investments within regulatory, contractual and legal constraints.
The formation of the venture was subject to certain conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals; the closing of the merger between MCI and WorldCom (which took place in September 1998); the purchase by BT of MCI's interest in Concert (which also took place in September); and the final negotiation and execution of definitive documents.
BT launched Touchpoint - touch screen, interactive multimedia kiosks - across the country following a six month trial the previous year. Heralded by the Design Council as one of the UK's most exciting new inventions, Touchpoint kiosks were aimed primarily at residents and English speaking tourists.
Information held on BT Touchpoint for customers to use ranged from a guide to what's on and where to go (including restaurant, cinema, theatre guides as well as a ticketing facility) to up-to-date news, sport and local news and horoscopes, as well a street guide and shopping area.
By simply touching the screen, customers were able to access any area they choose, to see and hear the content in a mixture of text, picture and video formats. Each Touchpoint kiosk comprised a high quality colour touch screen, an integrated telephone handset which allowed free direct contact with suppliers for bookings and ordering, and a printer from which vouchers, coupons, maps could be printed. By adding a telephony facility there was also the potential to offer Internet and e-mail access. The kiosks accepted credit card or coin payment for the printouts, with credit cards being validated by the system in real time.
From 1 August 1998, the quarterly exchange line rental for business customers was increased to £37.34p excluding VAT, an increase of £1.50p, or about 12p a week. The increase was in line with the current rate of inflation of 4.2 per cent. Exchange line rental had last changed on 1 July 1997.
Over the previous five years the annual bill for an average BT business customer had fallen by more than £100 - or nearly 28 per cent in real terms when inflation was taken into account.
Exchange line rental for residential customers was unchanged until 1 November when they rose from £26.62 to £26.77 a quarter, a rise of little more than 1p a week. BTHighway and In-Contact line rentals were unaffected by these changes.
This was the first residential line rental increase for 16 months and it did not change the BT commitment that overall bills would continue to fall. BT remained committed to keeping price changes for residential customers to 4.5 per cent below the rate of inflation each year until 2001. In the previous five years the average residential bill had come down by 21 per cent in real terms after taking rental into account.
In September BT began marketing its OnePhone residential service, a breakthrough in telephone technology which merged a GSM mobile handset with the domestic phone, using a single number. Scientists from BT's research laboratories at Martlesham Heath developed the necessary technology, working with the Swedish company Ericsson.
A version for business use had been successfully developed in June 1997 on BT's own sites, after which it was supplied for use in a number of large corporations. The early success of the business service enabled BT to develop a residential version more rapidly.
Whilst in the home, the BT OnePhone logged on to the fixed telephone network, acting as a high quality digital cordless phone. But once outside its 300 metre range, it switched to a GSM mobile network to become a fully functional cellular phone. Customers could have a new single number which reaches the BT OnePhone regardless of whether it was in home or mobile mode.
BT Highway, a new mass-market digital communications service which for the first time allowed UK customers to surf the Internet at high speeds and use the telephone simultaneously over their existing telephone line, was introduced on 15 September. The launch followed a trial of around 300 households in the Midlands earlier in the year.
BT Highway transformed a customer's existing telephone line into a fast, reliable and multi-functional digital Internet and multimedia connection, taking the wait out of the World Wide Web. The new service used the latest digital access technology supplied by Marconi Communications (previously known as GPT) and Ericsson, and operated over existing BT telephone lines at speeds several times faster than the fastest modem.
With BT Highway, customers could opt for either Home Highway - designed for home Internet users and occasional home workers - or Business Highway, which was aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, homeworkers and teleworkers.
There was a choice of using a combination of analogue or digital connections over a single telephone line: two digital data channels (each with a speed of 64 kilobits per second); one analogue voice channel and one digital data channel; or two analogue voice channels. Alternatively, the customer could combine the two digital data channels to give one line with a speed of 128 Kilobits per second.
With the introduction of this service, families or small businesses could surf the Internet or send e-mails and make and receive telephone calls simultaneously. Previously, users with a single analogue line had to disconnect from the Internet to use the phone.
BT Highway also meant that customers could benefit from a fast and clear digital service without having to give up their existing telephone line and equipment, BT
call discount schemes, or the range of BT Select Services. In addition, BT Highway customers had three numbers - one for each analogue line, and one covering both of the digital connections. In most cases one of the analogue lines could keep the customer's existing number.
BT Highway was easy to install, providing an additional socket with two digital ports and two analogue ports connected to a customer's existing telephone equipment. A BT engineer could carry out conversion to BT Highway quickly and easily without having to dig up the road.
Customers simply plugged in their existing telephone equipment and computers in much the same way as they did previously. To access online data services and the Internet through BT Highway, a customer required an ISDN card for their PC or a terminal adapter. For BT Home Highway, there was a conversion charge of £116.33 inc. VAT (for upgrading from a normal phone line) and a monthly rental of £40 inc. VAT, which included a monthly free call allowance of £15 inc. VAT.
BT Business Highway was available in three different options: Start Up, Low Start and Call Plan. For example, the Start Up option had a conversion charge of £99 ex-VAT and a monthly rental of £44.58 ex VAT which included a monthly call allowance of £19.16 ex VAT – presenting a monthly cost as low as £25.42 ex VAT. This worked out at just 53p per month more for Highway than for 2 analogue lines.
VIAG Interkom, BT's German joint venture, announced on 1 October the launch of its new mobile communications and Internet services becoming the first company in Germany to provide fixed, mobile and Internet services from a single supplier.
The mobile service - called citypartner - was available initially in the densely populated areas in and around Berlin, Hamburg/Luebeck, Hanover, Leipzig and Halle, Munich, Nuremberg, and the Rhine/Ruhr, and Rhine-Main/Neckar regions. Calls cost from as little as 29 pfennigs (about 10p) per minute.
The new Internet service - Planet-Interkom - was aimed at the German residential market and offered Internet access at only 10 pfennings (about 3.5p) per minute from any location at any time of day.
BT acquired in October a 33.3 per cent stake in Binariang Bhd, a major Malaysian telecommunications group, investing around £250 million. The acquisition further increased BT's growing presence in the Asia Pacific region.
Binariang consisted of four operating entities: GSM Mobile (Maxis Mobile), International Gateway (Maxis Global), Fixed Network (Maxis Fibre Network) and Satellite (MEASAT). The company was set up in 1993 and was awarded 20 year licences for all businesses.
In the three years since its launch, Binariang's mobile company, Maxis, had won a 22 per cent market share. In addition, Binariang's broadband network could be accessed by 70 per cent of Malaysian corporate customers and multinational companies.
BT unveiled a new service on 6 October designed to help Police, Fire and Ambulance authorities reduce response times to emergency incidents.
Under the previous system, call information was passed orally to the emergency authority; the BT operator passes on the caller's telephone number, but the caller was required to give details of the location.
The new information service, however, allowed details of both the calling number and the address from which a 999 call had been made to be transferred automatically to the emergency authority operator's screen. This enhancement prevented misunderstandings caused by uncertainty over the precise location, unusual spellings, panic, local accents or language difficulties, and improved call handling and vehicle dispatch times by an average of 30 seconds. Extensive trials of the enhanced information service were carried out with the West Midlands Ambulance NHS Trust.
Details of a line from which a 999 call had been made continued, as previously, to be passed to the appropriate emergency authority whether or not the number had been withheld. This enabled a swift response to a potentially life-threatening incident where the caller may have been under threat or unable to speak following a collapse, and also reduced the number of ineffective calls to 999 by ensuring that hoaxers were readily identified.
BT announced on 7 October that it was setting up a nationwide consultation on proposals to close its commercial maritime radio services in 1999. Demand from seafarers for long, medium and short-range terrestrial radio services had dropped by 80 per cent in the previous five years as satellite and cellular-based services were developed. It was proposed that existing commercial terrestrial services should close entirely, or in stages, from the end of June 1999.
Safety-related communications also provided by BT, such as MF broadcasts and Navtex, would continue, but under the stewardship of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
BT advised customers about alternative means of communications, such as C-Sat and Mobiq, in order to provide a smooth migration to cellular and satellite services. More than 500 fishermen around the UK already used BT C-Sat, which provided secure messaging and e-mail facilities as well as being able to receive information such as weather forecasts.
As in previous years, BT ran a money saving Christmas promotion for its 20 million residential customers.
On Christmas Day and New Year's Day they were able to make calls in the UK and speak for as long as they wished with their friends and relations, for no more than 50p per call.
The offer applied to most direct-dialled calls made from BT residential lines between midnight and midnight on both December 25 and January 1.
In addition, BT charged its cheaper evening and night time rate for most direct dialled international calls made by all customers - business and residential - on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
BT launched a new business discount scheme, BT Dual Discount, which could give business customers additional discounts on UK calls, in December.
The scheme was designed to give extra savings to its customers based on their call spend with BT on a combination of outgoing telephone and incoming Lo-call and Freefone calls. Customers have to opt in to the scheme.
The scheme offered business customers discounts of between one and five per cent for those spending more than £125 per quarter on qualifying calls after discounts. The discounts were applied on customers' net spend - after existing discount schemes had been applied. The maximum discount of five per cent was achieved at a quarterly spend of £1m.
BT acquired a 13.79 per cent stake in Kymata Ltd., a new UK manufacturer of high-speed, high-capacity optical communications components, in December.
Under the agreement, BT would licence a number of its opto-electronic patents in exchange for the stake in Kymata, and would give the company access to BT's technical know-how at the company's laboratories in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk.
BT's technical expertise and research facilities would help Kymata to accelerate the development and production of new opto-electronic integrated components for use on Dense Wave Divisional Multiplexing (DWDM)-based networks across Europe. These technologies would enable BT to increase the capacity of its core fibre optic network almost without limit, meeting the explosive demand for high-speed data communications and Internet services.
The agreement demonstrated BT's commitment to invest in the UK and help keep the nation at the forefront of innovation and technology, building on 20 years of developing world-class optical transmission technology in the UK network. At the time this comprised three and half million kilometres of optical fibres - the highest amount of fibre per customer in Europe.
In addition, BT's support would enable Kymata to establish one of Europe's first commercial opto-electronic manufacturing facilities.
BT announced in December that it would aid the funding of Ionica, for a period of up to three months, to help prevent 60,000 Ionica customers losing telephone service, including 999 cover, during the winter months. Ionica plc went into administration on 29 October 1998, after heavy losses and an unsuccessful attempt to attract the major additional funding it needed to continue in business.
BT's funding of Ionica's operations, at a cost of some £3 million, ensured an orderly transition of customers to BT and other service providers. BT contacted each customer to offer connection to the BT network, although they were free to switch to other providers if they wished.
On 5 February a global pact to liberalise telecommunications markets came into force. Almost a year previously, within the framework of the World Trade Organisation, some 70 governments had made individual commitments to open up their countries to competition in telecommunications over the next few years. As part of this agreement most countries in continental Europe liberalised their markets from 1st January 1998. This reflected the growing realisation by governments around the world that competition in telecommunications offers choice and improved services for customers, and that telecommunications is now a global business where national boundaries are increasingly less significant.
During 1999 BT began installing 1,000 multimedia payphones using touch screen technology and full interactive screen display to give users fast and easy access to email and the Internet with a range of interactive features.
February saw the launch of BT ClickFree, a free no-registration UK Internet service, allowing customers to access the Internet at the cost of a local call.
The reconnection charge for residential customers was abolished in April 1999, enabling customers rejoining BT from a competitor to do so free of charge. At the same time, the cost of installing a new residential line was cut by 15%.
Autumn 1999 saw the launch of Open, a joint venture between BT and BSkyB and others to provide interactive services through digital satellite television, reaching 2.8 million homes in 2000.
In November 1999 BT acquired Securior’s 40% interest in Cellnet for £3.17 billion. The same month BT Cellnet made the world’s first GPRS (general packet radio services) data transfer call.
Yellow Pages won the European Quality Award and becomes the first BT business to win the Award outright. BT Northern Ireland was also a prize winner and BT Payphones a finalist, making BT the first company ever to have three units selected as finalists for the award.
BT was also recognised in the British Diversity Awards, receiving a Gold Standard Award for its Ethnic Minority Network; was shortlisted for a 1999 Opportunity Now Award and achieved re-recognition as a Corporate Investor in People at its first annual review. Internally, BT introduced its Valuing Difference Awards to recognise and celebrate individuals and teams who are seen as role models in valuing diversity.
In this year BT acquired Control Data Systems (later known as Syntegra USA) for £213 million. With AT&T BT expanded its worldwide presence acquiring interests, in August, Rogers Cantel Mobile Communications and AT&T Canada for a total of £660 million), and in September a 30% share of Japan Telecom for around £1.2 billion. Yell acquired Yell Books USA for £415 million (US$665 million). Whilst BT Cellnet purchased BT Cellnet Lumina (formerly Martin Dawes Telecommunications).
BT marked the new millennium with BT FutureTalk. As well as BT’s sponsorship of the Talk zone at the Millennium Dome, Greenwich, BT joined with the BBC to support FutureWorld ,a touring exhibition of the UK showing dramatic demonstrations of the digital age, and the BT FutureTalk in Education programme was a drama-based campaign helping children improve their communication skills which reached 3,500 UK schools by July 2001.
5 January 2000 saw the launch of Concert, BT’s global joint (50/50) venture with AT&T, and trans-border assets and operations were transferred to Concert.
Modification to BT’s Licence in April allowed for local loop unbundling (LLU). This meant other telecommunications operators would, from December, be able to use BT’s copper local loops (the connection between the customer’s premises and the exchange) to connect directly with their customers.
BT obtained a licence (for £4.03 billion) to operate 3G mobile services in April and in November entered into an agreement with Crown Castle UK to provide infrastructure to 3G mobile and wireless operators.
A restructured BT was announced on 13 April, separating the UK fixed-network business into wholesale (fixed network assets) and retail (customers’ needs and accounts) divisions. Other assets in the UK, Europe and elsewhere were regrouped by market sector rather than geographically: Ignite (international broadband internet protocol (IP)/network business); BTopenworld (international, mass-market internet business); BT Wireless (international mobile business) and Yell (international directories) alongside Concert.
BT’s low-cost internet access service SurfTime was launched in June offering unlimited internet calls for a fixed fee and attacted 446,000 customers in 2001.
June also saw the launch of BT’s first DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) -based services and BT Cellnet’s GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) services.
On 1 August 2000 e-peopleserve, a joint venture between BT and Accenture, was launched to deliver end-to-end e-enabled integrated global human resources services to large organisations. e-peopleserve secured five year contract to deliver transactional services to BT, one of the largest HR outsourcing contracts in the world.
In November BT’s mobile internet portal Genie launched the UK’s first exclusively online mobile service, offering mobile phones with mobile internet access through text messaging and WAP.
In the financial year ending 2000 BT was presented with the Business in the Community Company of the Year Award; achieved certification of ISO14001; the international environmental management system won the Impact on Society award for its UK community programme; and was top of the FTSE100 companies in the Business in the Environment’s annual index of environmental engagement.
During 2000 BT acquired control of Esat Telecom Group (Republic of Ireland) for approximately £1.5 billion (March) and Telfort (Netherlands) for £1.21 billion (June). BT Cellnet purchased the 60% of The Mobile Phone Store that it did not already own for £45 million (April).
Sir Iain Vallance handed over the chairmanship of BT to Sir Christopher Bland on 1 May and stepped down from the BT Board.
On 10 May BT announced a three for ten rights issue at 300 pence per share. The opportunity was well supported by shareholders and became the largest ever rights issue in UK corporate history with 1.98 billion new shares issued and £5.9 billion raised.
BT sold Yell Group, the international directories and e-commerce business started in 1966 with the launch of Yellow Pages classified directory in Brighton, on 22 June for approx £2 billion.
BT Answer 1571, a free answering service for all its residential customers was launched in July and more than five million customers signed up in the first eight months.
Using Rate Adaption, or Extended Reach, technology BT launched an enhanced ADSL (Asymetric Digital Subscriber Line, or Broadband) service in July. The new technology extended the working range from the host exchange from 3.5 km to 5.5 km. As a result, the typical availability on an ADSL enabled exchange rose from 70 per cent of connected customers to over 90 per cent.
On 19 September BT opened its 1000th broadband enabled exchange at Livingston, Scotland.
On 19 November BT Group plc was formed as the demerger of mm02 (formerly BT Wireless) was completed with shareholders receiving one BT Group plc share and one mm02 plc share for each existing British Telecommunications plc share. On demerger mm02 comprised BT's mobile activities in the UK (O2 UK, formerly BT Cellnet wholly owned since 10 November 2001), the Netherlands (Telfort Mobiel), Germany (Viag Interkom - wholly owned since February 2001) and the Republic of Ireland (O2 Communications, formerly known as Esat Digifone wholly owned since April 2001), Manx Telecom and Genie (BT's mobile internet portal). BT Group plc was principally structured through four lines of business: BT Retail, BT Wholesale, BT Ignite and BTopenworld focused around markets rather than geography.
1 Aprilsaw thelaunch of BTexact Technologies, a wholly-owned business comprising BT's engineering and technology research and development activities, based at the company's world-renowned BT laboratories at Martlesham, near Ipswich. BTexact Technologies' principal customers are the BT lines of business and alliance partners but for the first time BT's research and technology division will market and provide its services to organisations outside BT.
BT refocused on western Europe selling its interests in Rogers Wireless, Canada (June); Japan Telecom, J-Phone Communications and the J-Phone group companies (July); and Maxis Communications, Malaysia (November). The sale of interests in Spanish wireless operator Airtel M ›vil SA, Spain in June supported BT's concentration on core activities.
Ben Verwaayen joined BT as Chief Executive designate on 14 January. He became Chief Executive on the departure of his predecessor, Sir Peter Bonfield, on 1 February.
On 26 January BT successfully brought into service the world's first hybrid Next Generation Switch (NGS) at Ilford, Essex with Glasgow and Reading cut over in February and March. The new switches used Voice over Asynchronous Transfer Mode (VoATM) technology, and marked a major step in the ongoing transformation of the BT core network and ensuring IP readiness for the 21st Century Network (21CN).
In response to the considerable pressure experienced following the downturn in the global communications sector, the unwinding of Concert, BT's international joint venture with AT&T, was completed on 1 April. BT acquired substantially all of Concert's managed services network infrastructure in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, as well as nearly all of the customer and supplier contracts originally contributed, giving BT direct control of its activities in the global communications market.
On 11 April BT announced its £6 million investment in Connected Earth, a showcase of the history of telecommunications, in which the company and its predecessors have played a central role since 1840s. As part of the initiative some 5,000 artefacts from BT's historical collection were distributed to a network of partner museums, improving access to information about telecommunications.
BT Broadband, a new broadband access service was launched in April. Trials and testing during the summer were followed by full availability from October, providing customers with "always-on", high-speed direct access to the internet over a single home phone line, facilitated by a simple plug-and-play setup that customers could install themselves.
On 24 June, following the Government's decision to give Public Access Wireless LAN (local area networks) the green light, BT Openzone was launched with hotspots at Heathrow's Hilton Hotel, BT Centre (London) and Adastral Park near Ipswich. By the end of 2002 there were 80 BT Openzone enabled areas.
A scheme aimed at increasing the spread of broadband provision began on 1 July. By enabling potential customers to register their interest in taking the service, BT announced ˜trigger points' (number required to make the work viable) for more than 300 exchanges previously not considered viable for broadband provision. The first exchange to reach its trigger point was Todmorden, Yorkshire, which had done so by 10 September. By January 2004, 1,000 exchanges had been upgraded with ADSL broadband as a result of 700,000 registrations through the scheme.
In November BT offered free internet service for a week in cities throughout the UK to mark the introduction of high speed broadband access to the largest public network of internet kiosks. The distinctive blue e-payphones , produced by BT in partnership with Marconi, offer full internet access, email and text messaging.
Phonecards ceased to be sold on 31 October. Introduced in 1981 annual sales of pre-paid phonecards peaked at £74 million in 1990-91 but by 2001 only three per cent of the 587 million BT payphone calls were made using phonecards.
In NovemberBT won ‚ 1 billion (seven year) contract to manage and develop Unilever's global communications infrastructure one of the largest outsourcing contracts in UK corporate history. BT Global Services supplied a range of voice, data and mobile services to Unilever with the majority of revenues coming from operations outside the UK.
In December, following the decision of the communications regulator Oftel to open up directory enquiry services to competition, BT launched its new directories operation accessed through a single number, 118 500. The prior acquisition of business finder directory services Scoot.com in August offered customers classified listings and other enhanced information services. The new number ran in parallel with the old 192 code until August 2003, when competition was introduced to the service and the old code ceased. The immediate effect of competition was a significant reduction in call volume.
In JanuaryYork received thefirst delivery of a new format BT phone book containing a classified directory together with A-Z business and residential numbers. The national rollout of all 171 phone books in the new format was completed by October 2004.
Marchsaw thelaunch of BT Learning Centre, an online subscription service to enable parents and children to learn more effectively online.
On 7 April BT revealed its new ˜connected world' corporate identity developed for BT by Wolff Ollins. The identity, previously used for BTopenworld, replaced the piper emblem and was introduced alongside the branded values of trustworthy, helpful, straightforward, inspiring and heart.
In July BT began the implementation of Exchange Activate. Exchange Activate explored viable ways to roll-out broadband to smaller communities using lower-cost exchange technology from BT Wholesale, and a sponsoring organisation.
On 25 July The Communications Act came into force bringing in a new regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) which did not assume its regulatory functions until 29 December, and a new regulatory framework. Under the new framework, the licensing regime was replaced by a general authorisation regime with the General Conditions of Entitlement (that is, conditions which apply to all) and specific conditions (that is, conditions which apply to individuals). A specific condition to BT is the Universal Service Obligation (USO) which designates BT as the supplier of universal service for the UK excluding the Hull area.
On 9 September BT announced its broadband services had reached exchanges serving four out of five UK homes, comparable to the number of homes connected to the mains gas network. Six days later the company announced it was installing BT Openzone access points in the first of its 108,000 payphones to bring wireless broadband to the streets of Britain.
In November BT launched the BT Diverse 5410, the UK's first enhanced messaging service home phone with all the benefits of digital cordless technology. Users could send and receive text messages and personalise their phones with ring tones and screensavers. The same month BT also showcased the BT Relate SMS, the UK's first corded phone capable of sending and receiving text messages and launched BT Mobile Home Plan, providing quick mobile phone calls to the home landline free of charge.
In December BT made the first move by a major UK player into the consumer VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) market. BT Broadband Voice enabled cable broadband customers to make voice calls over the internet and in November 2004 the service was extended to small businesses with the introduction of BT Business Broadband Voice.
During 2003 BT sold its interests in Cegetek Group SA (January) and Inmarsat Ventures (December) and issued bonds worth £99 million exchangeable into BT's holdings in LG Telecom, Republic of Korea, shares (December).
In January BT offered its fastest-ever consumer internet service, a 1Mbit/s broadband service through BT Yahoo! Broadband. Available to customers living within 3.5 km of a broadband-enabled exchange around 75 per cent of existing broadband users.
BT sponsored Wireless Broadband Week 26 January - 1 February, offering seven days of free access to BT Openzone. Traffic in the network increase by 133 per cent.
BT trialled cash-dispensing phone boxes in March in a partnership between BT Payphones and Travelex UK. The red, white and blue kiosks had a cash machine on one side and a payphone on the other, and installation was focussed on those areas with no cash machines.
In the first quarter of 2004,BT became the first UK-based company to introduce Siebel CRM OnDemand to businesses in the UK, enabling SMEs and divisions of larger businesses to organise, manage and streamline their sales, marketing and customer service activity through a hosted environment.
BT began trials of Flexible Bandwidth in April, enabling users to increase bandwidth up to 2Mbit/s temporarily or permanently.
In April BT announced that it had joined forces with Microsoft to launch BT Connected & Complete, a one-stop shop IT and broadband solution giving small businesses access to regularly updated and individually tailored IT software and support that was previously only available to large customers.
Following two months of successful trials,BT announced in May plans to launch Project Bluephone the first step towards handset convergence with handsets that switch seamlessly between fixed and mobile networks (see fusion - 2005).
BT announced in May its plans to redesign and reduce the cost of its local loop unbundling (LLU) product to encourage investment in broadband infrastructure and promote innovation.
In 2004 BT acquired Transcomm; the UK operations of NSB Retail Systems; and BIC Systems Group Limited. BT disposed of its 27.7 per cent stake in New Skies Satellites ( £24 million); its 11.9 per cent holding of StarHub ( £78 million); and its 15.8 per cent stake in Eytelstat ( £357 million).
In February Northern Ireland became the first UK region outside London to have all its exchanges enabled for broadband.
BT began the transfer of consumer and business customers to super-fast standard broadband, up to 2Mbit/s (four times faster than previous speeds) at no extra cost in February.
BT reached its target of five million broadband lines in April, one year ahead of schedule.
BT Fusion, the world's first combined mobile and fixed phone, was launched on 15 June. BT Fusion works just like a mobile phone when the customer is out and about, but switches automatically and seamlessly onto a BT Broadband line when they get home, combining the convenience and features of a mobile with fixed line prices and quality. In July BT chaired the inaugural meeting of the Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance, where BT and five other world-leading telecommunications operators worked to accelerate the development of Fixed-Mobile Convergence products and services.
Following the Telecommunications Strategic Review (TSR), BT signed legally-binding Undertakings with Ofcom on 22 September to help create a better regulatory framework for BT and the UK telecoms industry generally. The settlement, which followed Ofcom's acceptance of legally binding undertakings from BT, is based on the principle of focusing regulation only where it is needed and rolling it back elsewhere and included the creation of Openreach on 11 January 2006.
An online version of the phone book was launched in September [link to www.thephonebook.bt.com], providing advertisers at no extra cost with their listing included on the website as well as in the printed directory.
BT won the Most Admired Company Award community and environmental responsibility category. Awarded in December by Management Today and Mercer Human Resources, the company was judged by peer review from the UK's 220 largest companies. Chief executive Ben Verwaayen was also singled out for praise in the most admired leaders section.
In 2005BT completed the acquisition of Infonet, rebranded BT Infonet ( £520 million); acquired the 74 per cent of Albacom that it did not already own (minimum £80 million); and completed the acquisition of Radianz ( £107 million). BT also completed the sale of its 4 per cent stake in Instelsat ( £65 million).
11 January was the first day of operation for Openreach, the new part of BT created to deliver installation and maintenance services on behalf of Britain's telephone and internet service providers. On 22 January, the Undertakings from which Openreach was created became legally enforceable. [?link back to 2005 - Undertakings]
Actor Tom Baker (former Dr Who and narrator of comedy series Little Britain) became the voice of BT Text - a new service which lets people send and receive text messages on their home phone, 31 January - 30 April, with every text message sent to a landline delivered as a spoken message by Tom. Text messages sent and received by landlines soared by 69 per cent in the first 24 hours. Tom's voice was re-introduced in December for a charity fundraising initiative with 2p from every message going to Shelter.
BT and Eckoh Technologies provided a round-the-clock, speech-driven data capture service on 14 February enabling poultry owners to register their details with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Great Britain Poultry Register was instigated to boost Government and industry ability to effectively tackle potential outbreaks of avian flu.
On 7 March BT set up a free helpline for worried business customers who had been told by Cable & Wireless that they had 90 days in which to find a new supplier, as C&W focus activities on only 3,000 large business and government customers. BT offered those displaced businesses a dedicated team of advisors to understand their options and help them manage the unexpected requirement to move to another communications company with the minimum of hassle and disruption.
The Princess Royal officially opened a new extension to a facility used for testing military systems in March. BT was selected to design, build and operate the extension to the Land Systems Reference Centre (LSRC) at Blandford Camp on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
BT's 8Mb broadband option was launched on 4 April with download speeds of up to 8Mb and upload speeds of up to 448Kb for no extra cost to the customer.
On 11 May BT Group announced a world first - its development of a mobile phone service with the same functionality as an office fixed-line phone.
On 17 May BT announced agreements with six cities to become wireless pioneers. People in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Westminster would benefit from huge wireless networks. On the same day BT Openzone - BT's wireless broadband network offering was selected as the world's Best Service Provider at the prestigious Wireless Broadband Innovation (WBI) Awards.
In May 2006 Reading was the first area to receive the new look phone book. The restyled front cover was designed to make people more aware of its usefulness as a classified directory.
BT Home Hub was launched on 20 June. Designed to sit at the heart of the digital home, the Home Hub supports BT's full range of services including Total Broadband and Broadband Talk, connecting wirelessly to PCs and other broadband devices, and updating automatically.
Ofcom removed retail price controls on BT on 1 August. Control was imposed when BT was privatised in 1984 and the deregulation follows the conclusion of Ofcom's strategic review of telecommunications in September 2005 [?link] and a public consultation on the removal of retail price controls begun in March.
On 13 September BT signed a memorandum of understanding with China Netcom (CNC) to work together to provide communications services, especially broadcasting and media, for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
On 28 November the 21st century network, 21CN, went live in Cardiff. The first live phone call in the UK over the world's most advanced next generation network was made by eleven-year-old Laura Wess, from Wick and Marcross Church in Wales Primary School in the Vale of Glamorgan.
BT Vision, the next generation television service was launched on 4 December, putting the viewer in control by combining the appeal of TV with the interactivity of broadband.
In 2006 BT completed the acquisition of Atlanet SpA, a Fiat subsidiary providing domestic telecommunications services to Fiat and other businesses; purchased dabs.com, one of the UK's leading internet retailers of IT and technology products; and announced a 50:50 equity joint venture between BT and KDDI, Japan's second largest full service telecoms operator.
In October 2007, BT launched the world’s first international Wi-Fi voucher scheme, enabling cheaper and more predictable costs for travellers when abroad. The Openzone 500 vouchers offered Wi-Fi access across roaming partners in the US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Europe and Openzone access to hotels, airports and other hubs for an all-inclusive rate.
In May 2007 BT acquired Mumbai-based i2i Enterprise Pvt Ltd, which specialised in IP communications services for major Indian and global multinational companies.
i2i is a provider of enterprise telecommunications systems in the Indian market, and distributed BT Infonet’s managed network services and products nationwide.
This acquisition underscores BT’s commitment to India, one of the world’s fastest growing IT and business process outsourcing markets.
In June 2007 BT acquired Comsat International – a provider of data communication services for corporations and public sector organisations in Latin America – through its parent company, CI Holding Corporation. Comsat International employed more than 700 professionals with in-depth knowledge of Latin American markets and provided services directly in 15 countries. It had a track record in the delivery of complex projects and the management of network solutions for enterprise, public sector and carrier customers.
In June 2007, BT announced a three-year partnership with the British Red Cross in support of disaster relief worldwide. BT was the first global communications services company ever to partner with the British Red Cross in this way. BT invested £100,000 a year to provide essential satellite, IT and GPS equipment. By funding a three-year programme, BT and the British Red Cross could ensure that the relevant equipment was in place so that relief could be deployed anywhere in the world as quickly as possible. This partnership built on BT’s current support for disaster relief through DEC and was a natural extension of BT’s own emergency response and civil resilience activities.
In 2007, BT launched ‘Inspiring Young Minds’, its first global development partnership with UNICEF to develop community projects to bring education, ICT (information and communications technology) and communications skills to disadvantaged children. BT committed to invest £1.5 million over three years with additional fundraising activities by BT people around the world.
Ten months’ work by a CBI task force – chaired by BT CEO Ben Verwaayen and including 18 chairmen and CEOs from some of the UK’s largest companies – resulted in the publication of a report, Climate change – everyone’s business, in November 2007. The report concluded that all businesses have a responsibility to reduce their CO2 emissions and BT pledged to help fulfil the task force’s commitments.
BT acquired the award winning internet service provider Plusnet, which offered lower priced broadband and voice services.
In November 2007 BT acquired the IT infrastructure division of CS Communication & Systemes – the French IT systems and network services provider. The division provided corporate and public sector clients with a range of services for building and maintaining IT infrastructures, including consulting, network integration, insourcing, outsourcing and data centre services.
BT acquired the online electrical and computer goods retailer dabs.com, and International Network Services (INS), the California-based global provider of IT consulting and software solutions.
In July 2008, BT announced plans to make Britain’s biggest ever investment in a fibre-based super-fast broadband network. BT committed to spend spend £1.5bn making fibre based services available to around 40% of the UK’s homes and businesses by 2012. It was one of the largest investments in fibre-based broadband ever undertaken in Europe.
This would deliver a range of services with top speeds of up to 100Mb, allowing customers simultaneously to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications, such as high-definition movies, gaming, complex graphics and videos; all with greatly improved upload as well as download speeds.
The investment was later increased to £2.5 billion with the aim of making fibre services to 4m UK premises by the end of 2010, 10m premises by 2012 and a fibre roll-out to around two thirds of the UK by 2015, offering speeds of up to 100Mps. These targets were all met ahead of schedule. By May 2013 BT was bringing fibre broadband to an additional 120, 000 premises a week on average, and its fibre network passed more than 15m homes and businesses in both urban and rural areas.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) reinforced its vision of ‘a Games for the Digital Age’ by announcing in March 2008 that BT had become the latest Tier One partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.. As the official communications services partner, BT would be responsible for providing the communications services supporting the Games.
In January 2008 BT completed the merger between BT Italia SpA and I.NET SpA. The merger followed the acquisition by BT of Etnoteam’s 13.6% stake in I.NET and the subsequent public tender offer for the remaining shares in public hands in April 2007. BT Italia was Italy’s leading supplier of communications solutions and services dedicated solely to business and public sector customers. I.NET was an acknowledged leader in security and business continuity solutions.
In February 2008, in partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, BT launched Go!Messenger, a wireless communications package for the PSP (PlayStation Portable) gaming device. Go!Messenger was based on technology invented in BT’s research labs. It enabled PSP users to send video and voice calls and instant messages to each other using a new and intuitive screen keyboard when connected to wireless broadband at home, or to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, including BT Openzone, when on the move.
In March 2008, bt.yahoo was named best portal at the Internet Industry Awards.
BT acquired Frontline Technologies Corporation Ltd, one of the leading providers of end-to-end IT services in the Asia Pacific region. Frontline provided IT consulting, infrastructure services, systems integration and IT outsourcing to local, regional and multinational companies and had operations in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Its acquisition enhances BT’s existing networked IT services capabilities in the region.
BT made calls to its customer service and helpdesks free. On 1 April 2008, 99% of the numbers to customer service and helpdesks with an 0845 or 0870 prefix were switched to free 0800 numbers. The other numbers were changed over the next few months.
In February 2008, BT made UK weekend fixed line call charges a thing of the past by extending free weekend calls to all Option 1 customers. For the first time, all 15 million BT households – the majority of British households – no longer had to pay for weekend calls.
BT Total Broadband Anywhere was launched in May 2008 as the UK’s most complete broadband package. It offered customers the same BT Total Broadband experience that they received in the home while they were out and about with a BT ToGo phone. BT Total Broadband Anywhere customers could enjoy their home broadband services on the move – exchanging emails, making VoIP (voice over IP) calls and accessing social networking, shopping and entertainment sites.
BT joined forces with FON to develop a global wireless broadband access service at no extra cost to customers. BT FON gave every BT Total Broadband customer who agrees to share a small, secure section of their home broadband connection the chance to benefit outside the home from sharing the connection of another BT FON member, as well as using Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots. BT had more than 90,000 BT FON members in 2008.
BT launched BT Tradespace, an online trading community that brought businesses and individual sellers together with potential customers and partners. At 31 March 2008, there were over 65,000 members of the BT Tradespace community, and around 2,000 joining each week. In 2009 there were 338,000 members
In January 2008, BT started to take orders for 21CN Ethernet, a next generation wholesale Ethernet service and the first product to be delivered over the 21CN platform. 21CN Ethernet will offer up to ten times the bandwidth of the core MPLS network, delivering high-speed data connectivity to corporate customers and mobile operators.
Wholesale Broadband Connect, BT’s next generation 21CN broadband service was introduced in April 2008, following trials with communication provider custoemrs. It offered customers average speeds of around 10Mb, guaranteed service level agreements, the ability to trade speed for stability, and enhanced line diagnostics. At 31 March 2009, less than a year after it was first introduced, this service was available from exchanges serving more than 10m homes and businesses, around 40% of the UK addressable market.
BT launched BT Communications Complete, a simple networked IP platform for business customers to improve their communications.
Ian Livingston, formerly Group Finance Director from 2002 and CEO Retail from 2005, became Chief Executive of the BT Group on 1 June 2008.
In June 2008, BT announced a three-year deal with Sky to provide it with wholesale voice services to support over one million Sky Talk customers
Openreach deployed fibre to the premises (FTTP) on a new 1,000 acre greenfield site at Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent from August 2008 as part of an initial trial. At this site, Openreach offered the communications industry a wholesale fibre-based broadband product, facilitating competition at a retail level. The service could support speeds of up to 100Mb – the fastest headline speed available to residential customers in the UK.
In August 2008, BT signed a five-year managed network solutions agreement with Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL) on behalf of the joint venture partners 3 UK and T-Mobile UK to provide and manage high-speed connectivity between their base stations and BT’s core national network in the UK.
BT completed a number of smaller transactions in 2008, including the acquisitions of: Brightview Group Limited (Brightview) (a consumer internet service provider); Basilica Group Limited (Basilica) (one of the UK’s leading providers of IT solutions to businesses); Lynx Technology Limited (Lynx Technology) (one of the UK’s foremost suppliers of IT services); INS Group SA (the Belgium-based network and systems operator); Square Mile Marina Limited (a marina Wi-Fi network operator); and Fresca Limited (a specialist retail e-commerce service provider)
During 2008, BT’s UK accreditation to environmental management standard ISO 14001 was renewed, and BT achieved certification for its operations in Ireland, Italy and Belgium.
During 2008, BT was ranked as the top telecommunications company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the seventh year in a row. The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes rank companies for their success in managing social, ethical and environmental issues for competitive advantage.
In December 2008, BT announced a partnership with the BBC and ITV to launch a new digital entertainment platform. The new platform aimed to build on BT Vision and Freeview and to bridge the gap between two previously separate technologies, bringing TV to broadband and broadband to the TV. It would combine free digital channels with free on-demand content from the public service broadcasters as well as pay-TV delivered over the broadband line. The ‘Youview’ product was launched in 2012.
In July 2008 BT acquired Ufindus, one of the UK’s leading online business
directories. The acquisition from Iomart Group plc underpinned the continued growth of BT Directories, its classified advertising and directories business, supporting the increasing demand for online directory enquiries.
In July 2008 BT acquired Ribbit Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based ‘Telco 2.0’ platform company for $105m. The acquisition complemented BT’s existing capability in software development platforms. The integration of Ribbit with 21CN progressed well during the year.
BT introduced The I-Plate, a self-installable device that could be fitted to an end user’s master telephone socket to improve broadband speeds by eliminating electrical interference.
BT established a collaborative research and innovation centre in the United Arab Emirates with the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) and Khalifa University.
In May 2008, Ofcom removed BT’s SMP (significant market power) designation in relation to the provision of wholesale broadband access services in defined geographic areas of the UK (defined as ‘Market 3’). This followed Ofcom’s finding that effective competition in the provision of broadband in these areas had resulted from cable companies and CPs purchasing unbundled local loops from Openreach. All previous regulation of BT’s wholesale activities in relation to broadband services in these areas was therefore removed.
BT launched Ribbit for salesforce.com. This service made it easy for sales professionals to update key customer relationship management (CRM) systems using seamless voice-to-text technology, both from the desk and on the move.
In 2009, BT announced a new Friends & Family Mobile scheme which now offered discounts of up to 40% on calls to mobiles – making it cheaper to call a mobile from a BT landline than from prepay mobiles.
In February 2009 BT announced an agreement to provide Sky with a managed directory enquiries service.
In March 2009, following consultation, Ofcom published a policy statement setting out a regulatory framework for next generation access (NGA). This gave sufficient regulatory certainty for BT to proceed with the initial phase of its super-fast broadband roll out.
BT announced that calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers would be included for free in its packages – a first for the UK market.
BT’s range of handsets won praise in 2009 for its contribution to reducing carbon emissions with new energy saving power supplies.
BT was named as the Reader’s Digest most trusted internet service provider (ISP) and voted joint top for broadband customer service in a poll conducted by the Broadband Genie comparison website.
The creation of BT Engage IT (incorporating Basilica and Lynx, acquired in September 2007) enabled BT to offer customers a wide range of IT services, including data centre virtualisation, unified communications and managed services.
3 Ireland selected BT as its principal subcontractor to support the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme. The Scheme was run by the Department for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the aim of achieving broadband availability throughout the Republic of Ireland.
In March 2009 BT announced that Belfast would be one of the first regions in the UK to benefit from BT’s investment in super-fast broadband.
The acquisition of Wire One Holdings Inc (Wire One) – one of the leading providers of videoconferencing services in the US – enhanced BT Conferencing’s position as the leading videoconferencing operator in the world.
Starting in summer 2009, Openreach began running operational pilots of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) between the exchange and customer premises. Two exchanges – one in Muswell Hill in North London and one in Whitchurch, South Glamorgan – will conducted FTTC pilots involving up to 15,000 customer premises in each area.
End users were able to experience headline speeds of up to 40Mb.
In August 2009 BT transferred its consumer and SME broadband and voice customer base in the Republic of Ireland to Vodafone, and agreed to provide wholesale network services to underpin Vodafone’s business over a seven-year period.
Openreach made major reductions in the connection and rental costs of services in its Ethernet portfolio with effect from 1 February 2009, supporting and improving the access and backhaul markets in the UK at lower cost and supporting the growth of data-intensive applications.
In 2009, BT helped to launch Communicating for Success, a co-funded partnership between BT and the Football Foundation, to tackle digital exclusion and improve communications skills in the UK.
BT completed the acquisition of the remaining shares of Net2S SA, a publicly traded IT services company listed in France, other than certain treasury shares and locked-up shares issued under employee share plans (BT had acquired over 91% of the outstanding issued share capital of Net2S SA in 2008).
The degree of competition in the retail calls and lines markets led Ofcom to remove certain restrictions in 2009 to allow BT to provide bundled products so that it could compete more effectively. BT now had the freedom to offer attractive bundled packages of broadband, calls and TV services.
In December 2009 BT signed a contract with the Northern Ireland government to extend the roll out of fibre-based broadband beyond BT’s existing commercial deployment plans through a combination of public-private sector investment and European Union funding.
In November 2009 BT announced a multi-million pound investment in contact centre operations in Northern Ireland, with the creation of two dedicated digital care sites, enabling customers to access the highest quality of customer support via e-mail, live chat and other web-based contact including proactive support channels such as Twitter. This development involved advanced training and development of more than 600 BT customer care advisors in Northern Ireland.
The winter of 2009-2010 saw some extreme weather conditions in the UK with considerable flooding and snow. On 20 November 2009, just under 10,000 phone lines and 37,000 broadband lines were cut off as bridges collapsed and extensive flooding affected homes and businesses in an area of Cumbria. Within 12 hours phone services to the majority of customers had been restored and most broadband lines were working again within 36 hours.
The Inspiring Young Minds programme, BT’s global development partnership with UNICEF, which brings IT skills to children, was launched in China in 2010, following launches in Brazil in 2008 and South Africa in 2007.
Following the conclusion of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) narrowband market review in 2010 we are able to benefit from our new regulatory freedom to launch bundled services targeted at different customer groups.
During 2010 BT started the roll out of its ADSL2+ service, delivering speeds of up to 20Mb/s at no extra cost to customers. This technology increased the speed at which customers could download information over their copper telephone line.
In January 2010 BT launched BT Infinity, its super-fast fibre-based broadband proposition then offering download speeds of up to 40 Mb/s and upload speeds of up to 10 Mb/s, which was expected to change the way customers use the internet. BT aimed to make the service available to at least 40% of UK premises in 2012. BT had over 550,000 Infinity customers by 31 March 2011.
BT entered into a commercial partnership with OnLive Inc, a Silicon Valley based ‘cloud’ computing video gaming business, which gave BT exclusive rights to bundle its game service with broadband in the UK. This service enabled customers to purchase and play video games streamed over broadband.
BT launched Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 on BT Vision in time for the 2010-11 Premier League football season.
This followed the conclusion of the Ofcom pay TV market investigation in March 2010 which required Sky to provide these premium sports channels at wholesale regulated prices, which enabled BT and other pay TV operators to offer them at lower prices than those previously available.
BT launched the BBC iPlayer service on BT Vision, and expand the range of HD content, adding 3D movies for the first time and enhancing the HD download service.
In 2010, BT signed UK wi-fi deals to provide Orange, Vodafone and O2 with BT Openzone wi-fi access.
In April 2010 BT Wholesale signed a major MNS (managed network services)contract with Orange UK to take on the management and development of its UK fixed line broadband infrastructure for consumers and SMEs.
In May 2010 BT announced a strategic investment plan to strengthen our business in the Asia Pacific region. BT recruied up to 300 additional people in the key customer markets of Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Singapore, in order to build up sales and professional services teams, bid and project management, and service operations teams. This allowed BT to provide enhanced service delivery capabilities as customers invest throughout the region. BT’s continued commitment to the region and our customers was recognised through BT winning the Telecom Asia – Best Managed Services Provider award for the second consecutive year.
In August 2010 BT signed a contract with Starbucks Coffee Company to provide wi-fi across some 140 Starbucks coffee shops in Germany, extending BT’s relationship with Starbucks in the UK and Ireland.
In January 2011 BT launched the new Home Hub 3, including Smart Wireless which looks for the best wireless channel to ensure the strongest possible connection at all times. It used 39% less power and its smaller design typically used 25% less plastic than previous models.
In 2011 BT Directories released the compact Phone Book, reducing its size by 15% to fit into letter boxes, saving 2,000 tonnes of paper each year. BT Directories also launched a free Android smartphone application to make The Phone Book available to mobile users.
In March 2011 BT Wholesale launched the company’s first digital content distribution propositions to the UK market.
In April 2011 BT launched a new online fundraising service for UK charities called MyDonate (www.bt.com/mydonate), the first online fundraising service not to charge a subscription fee or take commission. BT developed the MyDonate service with a number of charities – including Cancer Research UK, Changing Faces, Kid’s
Out, NSPCC and Women’s Aid. Within days of launch, hundreds of charities had signed up to exploit this new platform for giving.
In February 2011 BT introduced a new procurement standard requiring all suppliers to measure and report their carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and set reduction targets. This was designed to encourage supplier innovation and to speed up development of low-carbon technologies.
In March 2011 BT launched a new range of printed and online safety advice to help parents keep children safe on the internet. At the same time the company launched a major campaign to prompt BT broadband customers to consider BT’s free Family Protection parental-control software. The software was offered automatically as part of the install process.
Plusnet launched its own competitively priced superfast fibre-based broadband service, offering customers download speeds of up to 40Mps via FTTC.
BT’s fibre-based ‘Total Transmission’ network went live in the Republic of Ireland in October 2011. This network upgrade increased the capacity of BT’s network, lowered the cost of bandwidth, brought the network closer to businesses and enhances BT’s Ethernet and IP capabilities to offer new services.
BT launched its fastest ever broadband service in November 2011, a FTTP Infinity service which supported downstream speeds of up to 100Mbps.
BT recruited a new mobile workforce of over 800 engineers (including many former Armed Forces personnel) to manage the spikes in demand that occured when fibre broadband was first made available in an exchange area.
In December 2011 BT announced the formation of BT Advise, which bought together the BT Global Services experts delivering consulting, systems integration and managed services around the world under one team. Customers benefited from engaging with a team made up of 4,500 highly skilled professionals who applied industry-leading processes and methodologies.
As official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games BT delivered a single communications network across 94 locations (including 34 competition venues) to make the London 2012 Games, the biggest sporting event ever held in the UK, the most connected games ever.
Every official photograph and sports report and millions of calls, emails, texts and tweets were carried over BT’s communications network, and billions of visits to the London 2012 Games website. BT carried all the broadcast pictures for every sporting moment outside the Olympic Park. BT provided 80,000 connections, 16,500 fixed telephone lines, 14,000 mobile SIM cards, 10,000 cable TV outlets, 5,500km of internal cabling and 1,800 wireless access points.
FTTP in the athletes’ village served 2,818 flats, providing the athletes and coaches staying here with free BT Infinity super-fast broadband throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A BT fibre-based network delivered 5,000 hours of live TV coverage of the Games to the International Broadcast Centre for onward transmission to broadcasters.
To do all this, BT had to install several thousand kilometres of internal cabling, the equivalent of more than 100 marathons. The single, integrated communications network was a first for a summer Games.
In February 2012 BT announced plans to expand operations across Turkey, the Middle East and Africa.
In March 2012 BT announced that it was upgrading the copper access network within our FTTC footprint by increasing the spectrum allocation at cabinets, so that the copper running from cabinets to the premises could support broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps downstream and up to 20Mbps upstream.
In March 2012 BT Vision won the IP&TV Industry Award in the Best Service Growth Achievement category. This is awarded for significant growth in the number of subscribers to an IP-enabled TV service.
In April 2012 BT launched FTTC BT Infinity with up to 80Mbps downstream and
up to 20Mbps upstream.
YouView, the joint venture between BT, the UK public service broadcasters, TalkTalk Group and Ariva, was launched.
BT started offering customers the YouView set-top box in October 2012. It gave them standard definition (SD) and HD Freeview channels and the ability to pause, record and rewind live TV and on-demand content. YouView’s programme guide scrolled back seven days to give customers easy access to catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. Customers with the Vision 2.0 set-top box, launched the same year, had advanced search and recommendation facilities in addition to the same basic features.
In June 2012 BT combined all its wi-fi activities into one identity: BT Wi-fi. A number of major deals were won, including contracts with Barclays bank and Game (a videogames retailer) for in-branch and in-store wi-fi. Wi-fi minutes trebled during 2011-12 and reached 4.7bn minutes in the fourth quarter and over 13bn minutes for the year.
The 75th anniversary of the 999 service showcased BT’s long history of managing high-volume call centres. Of the 31m 999 calls received by BT operators each year, 98% were answered within five seconds.
BT won 19 Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) bids to deploy fibre broadband in areas outside its commercial fibre broadband footprint. In December 2012 BT connected the first BDUK customers in North Yorkshire, less than six months after signing the contract.
BT launched the SmartTalk app, which allowed customers to make phone calls from their smartphone – wherever they were in the world – but which were billed as if calling from their BT home phone.
BT purchased a licence for 2x15MHz of FDD and 20MHz of TDD 2.6GHz spectrum in February 2013 to provide fast 4G connectivity, enabling BT to provide business and consumer customers an enhanced range of mobile broadband services, building on its existing strength in wi-fi.
In April 2013, Openreach launched FTTP-on-Demand. This allowed end-customers in FTTC areas to secure an FTTP connection if they needed one made. FTTP-on-Demand was initially available in 42 exchange areas, with plans to make it available across BT’s entire fibre broadband footprint.
In April 2013 BT Wholesale launched FTTP-on-Demand, which was initially available within a subset of the FTTC footprint. It allowed end-users in FTTC areas get a FTTP connection. Faster speeds of up to 330Mbps were possible when fibre was connected all the way to the customer premises if they needed one.
BT launched it new BT Hub 4 wireless router on 7 May, designed to offer broadband users the UK’s most reliable connection from a major internet service provider (ISP), thanks to smart dual band wireless technology. The new slimline hub combines Smart Wireless and concurrent dual band wireless – dual stream 802.11n MIMO technology simultaneously at 2.4GHz and 5GHz – which helped avoid interference.
In May BT launched new broadband and telephony packages and a 76Mbps fibre product under the Plusnet Business brand.
BT Business launched a 330Mbps FTTP service in June and a new managed Wide
Area Network (WAN) service in August tailored specifically to the needs of SMEs.
BT acquired UEFA Champions League and EUFA Europa League football rights for three years from summer 2015.
In August 2013, BT launched three live TV sport channels - BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN. These channels were on-air 24/7 and were available in both standard and high definition. BT Sport customers can get the sports channels through BT’s two latest TV platforms with BT Infinity, over digital terrestrial TV, through an online app, or over satellite. They were also available to Virgin Media customers and in the Republic of Ireland with Setanta, through wholesale deals. BT Sport was free with BT broadband. Non-BT broadband customers could subscribe for £12 a month for standard definition or £15 for high definition.
BT improved BT TV with additional third-party content and channels such as Comedy Central HD, Discovery HD, Disney Channel and Sky Movies, 38 additional channels in total.
Following the appointment of Ian (now Lord) Livingston, Gavin Patterson was appointed Chief Executive in September 2013. Gavin was formerly CEO BT Retail and prior to that Managing Director, BT Consumer, BT Retail
BT launched Hub 5, its latest home hub router, on 11 October 2013. The new hub supported superfast ac wireless with three aerials, allowing up to 1.3Gbps wireless speed with compatible devices.
BT’s Research Laboratories at Adastral Park set a new data speed world record in recent trials, achieving speeds of up to 1.4 terabits per second (Tbs) over a fibre line in its core network between London and Ipswich, enough to send 44 uncompressed HD films a second. The record was broken for a second time later in the year connecting at 2.2 Tbps, and further in-the-field speed trials in October set the record for the third time, achieving speeds of up to 3 Tbps, the fastest achieved over an existing fibre link using commercial grade hardware and software in a real-world operational environment.
Following its 4G spectrum purchase in February 2013, BT announced an MVNO partnership with Everything Everywhere (EE) in March 2014.
BT launched the BT One Phone, providing business with an innovative fixed-mobile solution.
In February 2014, BT launched a new YouView set-top box, building on the success of the first generation award-winning box. It was even smaller and faster and allowed customers to store up to 300 hours of TV. The new box was smaller and sleeker because it didn’t need a fan and it shared the same look and feel as the rest of the BT devices family, including the BT Home Hub 4 and Hub 5.
BT launched BT One Phone in July for small and medium enterprise, bringing together all of a company’s office phone system and mobile phone needs into a single system, hosted in the cloud and delivered on a mobile phone.
BT Business offered quick and easy access to mobile data in August with the launch of its new 4G mobile plans. Every new BT Business Mobile connection now came with 4G access and unlimited BT Wi-fi as standard and at no extra cost. The new 4G services run over the BT Business national mobile service, enabled by the MVNO agreement BT signed with EE earlier in the year.
BT launched its most advanced call-blocking phone to date in September, stopping up to 100 per cent of nuisance calls. The BT8500 Advanced Call Blocker follows on the 2013 launch of the BT6500 Nuisance Call Blocker – which quickly became BT’s fastest-ever-selling home phone – and was BT’s response to new research that showed unwanted calls and automated recordings from PPI claim companies and sales people are Britons’ top annoyance.
BT won the Queen’s Award to Enterprise (Innovation) for its pioneering innovation IP Exchange (IPX) – a communications transit hub interconnecting UK and global telecoms companies
BT launched a new Infinity, TV and Netflix package in November. The new offer included BT’s new mini YouView box. The set-top box provided access to the YouView service, including up to 70 Freeview TV and radio channels, as well as access to BT TV’s Box Office service for the latest movies, plus free BT Sport.