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Ofcom UK CEO Sharon White to Exit Telecoms and Media Regulator

Thursday, June 6th, 2019 (1:30 pm) - Score 2,236

The CEO of Ofcom, Sharon White, has today confirmed that she will step down from her stewardship of the United Kingdom’s telecoms, broadband and media regulator by “around the turn of the year“. The regulator’s board will now begin the process of finding a replacement (subject to final approval by the DCMS Secretary of State).

Sharon White, an ex-Treasury official and economics graduate with 29 years’ of experience working in the public sector (albeit little telecoms knowledge until she joined Ofcom), originally took over from Ed Richards in the technically demanding role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) back in 2015 (here).

During her period in power White has overseen a number of major industry developments, such as the strategic review of digital communications that resulted in the further legal separation of BT from Openreach, as well as the merger of BT with EE and conversely the rejection of O2 and Three UK’s proposed merger.

On top of that she has tried to encourage more “full fibre” deployments, overseen numerous disagreements between mobile network operators and helped to introduce a variety of new consumer protection measures (e.g. easier mobile switching, automatic compensation for broadband ISP faults, end-of-contract notifications etc.).

Sharon White said:

“It’s been a huge privilege to lead Ofcom at a time when reliable, affordable communications have become essential. I will leave behind an organisation that is dedicated in its mission to make communications work for everyone.”

Lord Burns, Ofcom Chairman, said:

“Sharon has been an outstanding Chief Executive for Ofcom and will be missed by the whole organisation.

Under Sharon’s leadership, Ofcom has helped to deliver ultrafast broadband, widespread 4G mobile and now 5G, and became the first independent regulator of the BBC.

She leaves Ofcom as a regulator with a relentless focus on the consumer interest; making sure people and businesses can get the best out of their communications services.”

Naturally not all of White’s decisions have been universally popular (e.g. some felt as if a merger between O2 and Three UK should have been accepted and others wanted BT’s legal split from Openreach to go further) but few things ever are for a regulator. We’ll be interested to see who the board finds to replace her. Meanwhile Sharon is off to become a Chairwoman for the John Lewis Partnership.

Leave a Comment
16 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    Great news! Can we now have a regulator with some actual expertise in their regulated area.

    • Avatar chris conder

      I think that’s what we’ve had before Joe, and all they have done is shore up the obsolete openreach network. At least Sharon tried hard and succeeded in many areas to try to create a level playing field to encourage competition. If the job goes to a proBT guy it will all revert backwards again to the toothless quango it was before Sharon took over.

    • Avatar Joe

      Ofcoms power have changed massively in recent years so its not a fair comparison. Not that I think the record has been good. Ofcom have been glacial at progress on bb.

      I’d rather not have an ex-bt certainly but someone who understands the industry (doesn’t need to be UK) CFOs can be bean counters but for CEO’s I’d rather have some knowledge. I think its better for long term planning.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Umm the ‘level playing field’ was put in place by Sharon’s predecessor. Ofcom under her leant on BT more and more to lower their prices for everything pricing competitors out.

      LLU was put in place by pre-Sharon Ofcom, the requirement for open-access GEA was pre-Sharon. What Ofcom have done under her leadership is maintain their fixation with LLU and, hence, prevent Openreach replacing copper with fibre.

      if we can get someone pro-BT and less pro-LLU/OLOs that’ll be great. BT can start retiring copper at speed and we’ll all get that sweet, sweet glass to the home more quickly.

    • Avatar Joe

      I agree with Carl that Ofcoms obsession with price over quality or futureproofing/investment has been maddening.

    • Avatar Mike

      Politicians once elected only think 5 years ahead.

  2. Avatar Karl Betts

    Yeah Ofcom is just useless totally useless !

  3. Avatar Black Francis

    Any regulator is slow, not totally useless, but without laws to back them up i.e. any real clout, at least some kind of regulation is a good thing, in my view.

  4. Avatar Brian Storey

    “Under Sharon’s leadership, Ofcom has helped to deliver ultrafast broadband, widespread 4G mobile and now 5G”


  5. Avatar gerarda

    Although she has done a better job than her predeccesor I can’t help thinking this is Ofcom’s gain and John Lewis’s loss

  6. Avatar Marty

    Hopefully Yih-Choung teh is the named as the replacement perhaps?

    • Avatar Marty

      He is the group strategy and research director of Ofcom with knowledge of the Telco’s industry to anyone who isn’t sure who he is.

    • Avatar A voice of reason

      Marty, I’ve thought for some time that he’s been the real brains behind what goes on at Ofcom. I suspect he’ll stay where he is and we’ll see another Whitehall mandarin climbing the career ladder as CEO

    • Avatar Joe

      Only downside I can see there is that they have been at Ofcom a long time.

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