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Ex Ofcom UK Boss Stephen Carter Approached to Take BT CEO Role

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 (8:01 am) - Score 2,557

The hunt for somebody to replace the outgoing CEO of BT Group, Gavin Patterson, appears to have reached fever pitch, with reports on Sky News that the former boss of telecoms regulator Ofcom, Stephen Carter (Lord Carter of Barnes), has been approach to take over the position. But there are other candidates too.

The Scottish businessman and politician would certainly be an interesting pick given his background in the industry. Between 2000 and 2003 Carter was the COO and MD of NTL (better known today as Virgin Media), before joining Ofcom to act as the regulator’s CEO until 2006 (around the period when Local Loop Unbundling was introduced).

After a brief stint as the CEO of Brunswick Group LLP he later joined the administration of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008, where he held various roles and also helped to author the Digital Britain report. This laid the foundations for the infamous 2010 Digital Economy Act, which is perhaps best known for encouraging better national broadband connectivity and attempting to impose some particularly harsh anti-piracy measures against UK ISP users (threats of disconnection etc.).

In April 2010 Carter moved on to become a Director of Alcatel-Lucent, where he held various other roles until leaving in 2013. Since then he’s been working as the CEO of information services company Informa. Suffice to say that Carter has a lot of experience in the sector, although he’s not the only person being considered to take the helm of BT.

Reports indicate that the former boss of mobile operator EE, Olaf Swantee, is another potential candidate and so is the CEO of Swedish operator Tele2, Alison Kirkby. Meanwhile a separate report on Yahoo! suggests that analysts have also pointed the finger more internally at BT’s CFO, Simon Lowth, and the boss of its consumer division, Marc Allera.

A new boss is expected to be appointed sometime during the second half of 2018 and whoever it is will have to contend with a particularly difficult climate, one where Openreach is being called upon to spend billions more on a national roll-out of “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband and adopt greater independence from BT.

At present the operator has already committed to reach 3 million premises passed with FTTP by the end of 2020 and they appear to be closing in on an agreement with Ofcom, which could enable them to push to 10 million premises by around 2025. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if a firm announcement on that ends up surfacing soon after the new CEO has been announced.

Leave a Comment
13 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder says:

    The role needs long term vision from someone who has delivered technology change with a long term ROI horizon.

    It came to something when the City essentially unseated Gavin for the underinvestment. Given the City’s general reputation for demanding short term returns.

    So not a narrow bean counter: BT had plenty of them in the past.

    There I should be a headhunter……….

    1. Avatar un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

      I have to assume there are not many people which want the role rather than he being first choice. If he is a genuine first choice then i dunno what is going through BTs head. Why even bother having plans (like fibre and G.Fast) for the next 3-7 years and hire someone that seems to only stick around for 2-3 years in a role?

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:


      It is seen as a bit of a poisoned chalice.

      It has a lot of bolt on politics, some hard to bolt off.

      Jan came in and said stuff that, politics overboard with all baggage.

      Gavin’s parting role is to clean up the mess so that BT can move forward.

      The studied inaction of Gavin’s predecessors left a real mess.

      Gavin was then presented with the rock/hard place of OFCOM breathing down BT neck and so tried to buy them off with the GFast mess. That was until beam counter central told him that GFast to the pole was a non starter. So again he has cleaned his won mess up. But it is a measure of the man that he has cleared it up.

      To be honest BT needed a bit of basic school master style management. Reducing things to basics rather than acres of it-is-so-difficult-civics/blocked-ducts/OFCOM-waffle.

      This won’t be polpular but OFCOM hasn’t been totally wrong and BT have been intransigent in not listening to either OFCOM or shareholders. Or even, for years, giving a sensible roadmap to get to a fibre future. And a lot of shareholders have been whispering and then shouting invest more in full fibre for a few years.

      Anyway sitting here in Burgundy with an amazing glass of 2005 Pommard 1er Cru in my hand and a fantastic view on a warm sunny afternoon, the BT outlook is on the mend.

      Hopefully the sunshine will improve the BT share price as well?

  2. Avatar chris conder says:

    Carter has no vision, he sold us down the river with the digital britain report. He didn’t listen to all our comments and bashed on regardless supporting the old copper. Just deserts if he gets the job on the sinking ship.
    The only way to save the day is to give the job to Peter Cochrane, but he’d probably turn it down.
    Openreach will shortly be kicked into touch when BT have cornered the mobile and content market.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Yes, it’s not like OR have a huge fibre network covering the UK wholesaling to hundreds of companies.

  3. Avatar chris conder says:

    yes, that’s a fact. Fibre to every exchange, then leaching the copper assets from there and from fttcabinets. Making a fortune with their monopoly, calling it superfast fibre. Saying we had competition and that only they could use the funding well. What fools the government have been to have fallen for this snake oil hype for so long. If they had done the job properly we’d have had the best network in the world, we blew it for football rights and shareholders… we’d still be on dial up but for virgin. Long may altnets rule, they are the ones proving it can be done. Our BT engineers are brill, it is management that sucks. Let us hope they can turn it around because we’re becoming a third world digital nation.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. BT is like a sinking ship. There is a good chance that BT ends up as one of the many tech dinosaurs. Remember Compuserve, IBM, Nokia etc? This will open up a chance for other fibre network builders to do the job.

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:


      The ship was sinking slowly but now there is a strategy in place that makes sense to the investors. And has investor support.

      So I would not write BT off just yet. There are good people there, yes I really believe that. The thing is to enable a slightly more entrepreneurial culture where new ideas are encouraged and then rapidly tested rather than being squashed by bureaucracy and tired excuses. To do the long tail there are going to need to be bespoke solutions to fibre deployment.

      BT’s next challenge is to get the cost of the FTTP roll out down to the cost level of others. And that will mean changing approach.

    3. Avatar Fastman says:

      BT’s next challenge is to get the cost of the FTTP roll out down to the cost level of others. And that will mean changing approach

      the biggues issue os now on these other provider wholesale their FTTP (some may in name but not really bin practice) where openreach can only wholesale its FTTP

      so not apples to apples — FTTP continues to be challenge and expensive

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      You’d love that GNewton. But despite your daily prayers I don’t think it is going to happen.

      Believe it or not. Home broadband provision isn’t their only business. Just one of many areas.

      As for other fibre network builders, let them step up. We are starting to see more. BT isn’t stopping them rolling out. Never has… shame they’ve take so long to start.

    5. Avatar AndyH says:

      @ Fastman

      The cost of deployment has come a long way since the early days of FTTP. I don’t think there are massive savings still to come, however there are still efficiencies to be found.

      The Openreach FTTP consultation put the cost per premises passed around the same level as other operators. The underlying issue, however, is that Openreach have to wholesale their network and there has been no ground made in terms of future commitments from OFCOM over their wholesale pricing control.

  4. Avatar Bobov says:

    Sounds like perfect corruption apportunities

  5. Avatar Blandings says:

    My ex boss would not employ someone who had a lot of short term jobs. Always asking the question where you any good at any of them? Most times the answer was no.So is this Carter any better than what BT had in the past reading some comments the answer is a loud no.

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