BT Group plc

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BT runs the telephone exchanges, trunk network and local loop connections for most British fixed-line telephones, and is responsible for ~30m telephone lines in the UK.[Mar.2020]. BT is the world’s oldest telecommunications company, tracing its history back to the Electric Telegraph Company of 1846.

BT's businesses are operated under special govt regulation by OfCom, the UK's communications sector regulator. In markets where it has significant economic power, BT is required to comply with additional obligations such as network access, services, and the supply of apparatus.[1]
BT is the only UK telecoms operator apart from KCOM Group Ltd to have a Universal Service Obligation,[2] which means that a basic fixed telephone line must be provided at an affordable price to all citizens in the UK. BT is also obliged to provide public telephone boxes.[3]

Sales are distributed throughout the UK (82.9%); Europe/Middle East/Africa (10.5%); (Americas (4.2%); Asia/Pacific (2.4%); and break down as follows:

  • 48.7%: Telecommunication services: primarily fixed and mobile telephony, Internet access and TV broadcasting for individuals and companies and professionals (telecommunication operators, Internet service providers, etc.);
  • 23.3%: Services: primarily network services, e-mail, conferencing, CRM, information and communication system outsourcing services;
  • 19.6%: Network establishment: line leasing, providing network availability to communication service providers, supply of Ethernet services, etc.;
  • 8.4%: Other.

Corporate Political Engagement Rating:[4] Transparency International    D  



Total float: 84.5%
Source: MarketScreener.svg, Mar.2020


British Telecommunications plc = primary subsid.

BT provides mobile and fixed broadband communications services in the UK.

The UK's digital network business, connecting homes and businesses. We want to build the best possible network with the highest quality service, and make sure everyone in the UK is connected.

Business communications and IT solutions provider, with ~1m business customers and public sector organisations. We also provide network products and services to communications providers operating in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Serves enterprise customers in 180 countries. Provides managed network and IT infrastructure services.

Internal technology unit responsible for creating and operating BT's networks, platforms and IT systems.

BT Group plc = holdco. Majority of its businesses and assets are held by its wholly-owned subsidiary British Telecommunications plc.2014,2020

BT has expanded into more profitable products and services where there is less regulation. These are principally, broadband internet service and bespoke solutions in telecommunications and information technology.ref


BT Group is organised into the following divisions:

  • Customer-Facing: 30m customers
    • BT Consumer – provides retail telecoms services to consumers in the UK:
    • EE – mobile network operator, provides mobile and fixed communications services to consumers in the UK;
    • BT Business and Public Sector – provides retail telecoms and IT services to businesses and the public sector in the UK and Ireland;
    • BT Global Services – provides telecoms and IT services to multinationals;
    • BT Wholesale and Ventures – provides network products and services to communications providers, voice services to UK customers via 999, 118 500 and Next Generation Text Service, services for media companies and broadcasters; the ventures side encompasses a portfolio of businesses offering a range of products and services;
    • Openreach is a fenced-off wholesale division, established in 2005 following a review by OfCom and commenced operations in 2006. Its purpose is to ensure that other communications providers have the same operational conditions as BT, and is responsible for the provision and repair in the "last mile" of copper wire.[5]
  • Internal service unit
    • Technology – responsible for the innovation, design, test, build and operation of BT's global networks and systems


BT Openreach


There is no regulatory enforced structural separation of a network in the UK. However, Ofcom required BT to legally separate from its network division, Openreach in early 2017. Openreach supplies access to BT's network to other communications providers, and the purpose of the legal separation is to create a more independent Openreach which will work in the interest of all providers.[1]

  • Jan.09.2020: Ofcom puts pressure on BT over fibre network. OfCom has called on BT to commit to accelerating the introduction of faster broadband networks. OfCom launched a consultation to encourage investment in full-fibre broadband infrastructure as it seeks to meet Boris Johnson’s election pledge to connect all the country’s homes “to gigabit speeds” by 2025. The consultation, which ends in April, will regulate BT’s Openreach broadband infrastructure network from Apr.2021-Mar.2026. Only 10% cent of the country has access to full-fibre broadband. Note: in areas where fibre competition exists, pricing will be left to the market; and BT will be allowed to charge an extra £1.50 - £1.85 per month for fibre to the premises, even if speeds are no faster than the 40 megabytes from the best-performing copper wires.ref Alex Ralph, The Times.
  • 2006: Established following an agreement between BT and the Telecoms regulator OfCom to implement certain undertakings, pursuant to the Enterprise Act 2002, to ensure that rival telecom operators have equality of access to BT's local network. Openreach owns and maintains the telephone wires, ducts, cabinets and exchanges that connect nearly all homes and businesses in the UK to the national broadband and telephone network.


EE Ltd


EE (formerly Everything Everywhere) is a mobile network operator and internet service provider. It is the largest mobile network operator in the UK, and the largest operator of 4G services in Europe. As of Nov.2016, EE's 4G and 2G networks' combined coverage reaches more than 99% of the UK population, with double speed 4G reaching 80%, and the 3G network reacheing 98%.[6]


BT Group plc

Logo Refresh: a shiny new logo, set to be the centrepiece of the company's first brand shift since 2003, reflecting its move into pay-TV sports and the mobile phone market.
Openreach, responsible for managing the UK access network on behalf of the telecommunications industry, was launched as part of BT's commitments made with OfCom in Sept.2005 to help create a better regulatory framework for BT and the UK telecoms industry generally.[7]
2006 O2 plc was purchased by Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica SA.[8] Under the terms of the acquisition, Telefónica agreed to retain the "O2" brand and the company's UK headquarters.[9]
2005 Radianz, a leading financial services extranet provider, was acquired from Reuters.
2005 Albacom, the 2nd-largest telecoms operator in the Italian business market, was acquired.
2005 Infonet: Infonet - now BT Infonet - one of the world’s leading providers of global managed voice and data network services for corporate customers, was acquired.
Jul.2003 OfCom, the Office of Communications, replaced OfTel, the Office of Telecommunications. A new regulatory framework was introduced, replacing the licensing regine by a general authorisation for companies to provide telecommunications services subject to general conditions of entitlement and, in some instances, specific conditions. Communications Act 2003
Apr.2003 BT unveiled a new corporate identity and brand. Reflecting the aspirations of a technologically innovative future, the connected world symbol is bright, strong and clear and embodies BT’s five corporate values. The values of Trustworthy and Helpful are long-standing BT service values, and are supported by the forward-looking values of Inspiring, Straightforward and Heart.
Sept.2001 BT Group plc: just prior to the demerger of BT Wireless, BT changed its name. Shares commenced trading again under its new name.

BT plc

Nov.2001 The last day of trading in BT shares was Nov.16.2001; from Nov.19, mmO2 plc and the newly renamed BT Group plc shares were traded separately.[7]
mmO2 plc: BT Wireless, BT's mobile operations, was demerged and renamed as "O2 Ltd", with its holdco renamed as mmO2 plc.[10] BT Cellnet, along with other former BT subsidiaries: Esat Digifone in Ireland, Viag Interkom in Germany and Telfort Mobiel in the Netherlands, were all rebranded as "O2".[10]
Yell-Group-2001.svgDeals-Arrow-Right.svg, the international directories and associated e-commerce business, was sold to private equity firms Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc and Apax Partners LLP.AR-Mar.2002,[11][12]
Consignia plc: the Post Office's businesses were transferred to a new public limited company,[13] which was swiftly renamed as "Royal Mail Group plc" after the name met with massive disapproval.[14] The govt became the sole shareholder in Royal Mail Holdings plc and its subsidiary Post Office Ltd. Postal Services Act 2000 In Apr.2007, the old Post Office Corporation was formally absolished. Dissolution of the Post Office Order 2007 Consignia plcArchive-org-sm.svg
Jun.2000 BT Cellnet launched the world's first commercial General Packet Radio Service. BT Cellnet, together with BT's mobile telecommunications businesses in Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, was part of the BT Wireless division.
Labour (Blair)
BT Cellnet: BT acquired Securicor's shareholdings in Cellnet, rebranding it.[15]
Jan.1996, whose roots were established in 1966 as the "Yellow Pages", and later as the "Talking Pages", was launched as an internet search engine for businesses.[16]
Dec.1991 The govt sold about half of its remaining holding of 47.6%, reducing its stake to 21.8%. In Jul.1993, all the govt's remaining shares (except for its "Special Share") were sold in a 3rd flotation, raising £5bn for the Treasury. In Jul.1997, the govt relinquished its Special Share.[17]
Conservatives (Major)
BT plc: the company unveiled a new trading name "BT", a new corporate identity, and a new organisational structure which focused on specific market sectors, reflecting the needs of different customers - the individual, the small business or the multinational corporation.[7]

British Telecommunications plc

Girobank plc: the Govt and the Post Office announced that Girobank would be offered for sale to the private sector. In Jul.1990, it was purchased by the Alliance & Leicester Building Society.[18] Operations which did not fit with Alliance & Leicester's business were retained, and later sold on; the most significant was the leasing business, sold in Mar.1990 to the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society.
Cellnet was formed as a 60/40 joint venture between BT and Securicor Communications Ltd. Cellnet was a subsidiary of the JV holdco, "Telecom Securicor Cellular Radio Ltd".
OfTel, Office of Telecommunications, was created as a non-ministerial govt department to promote competition in the industry, and to protect the rights of consumers. Telecommunications Act 1984
Apr.1984 British Telecommunications plc: British Telecommunications was privatised, with the business of British Telecommunications, the statutory corporation, being transferred to British Telecommunications plc. In Nov.1984, 50.2% of its shares were sold to the public.[17] Telecommunications Act 1984

British Telecommunications

Nov.1983 Duopoly: BT's monopoly on telecommunications was broken with the granting of a licence to Cable & Wireless plc to run a public telecommunications network via its subsidiary, Mercury Communications Ltd,[7] resulting in the creation of a duopoly of British Telecom and Mercury Communications Ltd.[19] In order to address this, in Mar.1991, a revised policy which enabled customers to acquire telecommunications services from competing providers using a variety of technologies, was issued in the govt's White Paper, "Competition and Choice: Telecommunications Policy for the 1990s". Independent 'retail' companies were permitted to bulk-buy telecommunications capacity and sell it in packages to business and domestic users. See also Vodafone Group plc#Cable & Wireless plc.
British Telecom became British Telecommunications's official trading name when it became a completely separate public corporation, severing its links with the Post Office Corporation. To introduce competition into the Telecomms Industry, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as well as British Telecom, was empowered to license other operators to run telecommunications systems.[20] Additionally, a framework was established which enabled the Secretary of State to set standards with the British Standards Institution for apparatus supplied to the public by 3rd parties, and had the effect of requiring British Telecom to connect approved apparatus to its systems. British Telecommunications Act 1981
Conservatives (Thatcher)
British Telecommunications: the Post Office Corporation's division "Post Office Telecommunications" was renamed as "British Telecommunications" (t/a "British Telecom"), although it (temporarily) remained part of the Post Office Corporation. British Telecommunications Act 1981
Post Office: the Post Office Corporation's remaining business was renamed as the "Post Office", consisting of the Royal Mail, parcels, Post Office Counters and National Giro businesses.

Post Office Corporation

Labour (Callaghan)
National Girobank changed its name, using the word "bank" for the first time to promote itself as a proper bank. It also became the first bank to offer free banking to personal customers, as long as they were in credit.[21]
Labour (Wilson)
National Postcode System: the system of postcodes was rolled out across Britain.[22] Postcodes in the United Kingdom § Modern postcode systemWikipedia-W.svg
Conservatives (Heath)
National Giro became a separate business within the newly formed Post Office corporation.
Post Office Corporation: the General Post Office ceased to be a govt department and was abolished, with its assets being transferred to a new public corporation (a nationalised industry) with two divisions: "Post Office Telecommunications" and the "Post Office".[7] The Post Office was given the exclusive privilege of running telecommunications systems, with listed powers to authorise others to do so. Post Office Act 1969
The Post Office Savings Bank was hived off and re-constituted as a separate govt department, the Department for National Savings, reporting to HM Treasury.[23] Subsequently re-branded as the National Savings Bank. National Savings Bank Act 1971
National Giro, the Post Office’s new banking service, was launched.
Labour (Wilson)
The Govt's White Paper "A Post Office Giro" outlined a system which would use the Post Office as its business outlets. The White Paper was in response to a 1959 report, which recommended the introduction of a Giro System providing a simple, cheap and efficient money transfer service for both personal and business customers.[24]

General Post Office

The General Post Office grew to combine the functions of state postal system and telecommunications carrier, with similar General Post Offices being established across the British Empire. When new forms of communication came into existence in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the GPO claimed monopoly rights on the basis that, like the postal service, they involved delivery from a sender and to a receiver.

Labour (Attlee)
The majority of Cable & Wireless Ltd's UK assets and staff were transferred to the General Post Office.
Liberals (Asquith)
National Telephone Service: the General Post Office took over the entirety of the private sector telephone service, including the National Telephone Company Ltd and its telephone systems except for a few local authority services which all folded within a few years. The single exception was in Kingston-upon-Hull, where the Hull Municipal Corporation's telephone department eventually became Kingston Communications plc in Feb.1987. In 1912, the Post Office opened its National Telephone Service, becoming the monopoly supplier of the nation's telephone service. (Telephone Transfer Act 1911)
Conservatives (Gascoyne-Cecil)
General Post Office took over the National Telephone Company Ltd's trunk telephone services. Telegraph Act 1892, Telegraph Act 1896
Liberals (Gladstone)
National Telephone Company Ltd was formed as a subsidiary of the United Telephone Company Ltd to develop and operate telephone services in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Ulster and parts of Scotland, taking over UTC operations in those places. Between 1889-1893, an amalgamation policy was pursued, with the NTC absorbing the Northern District Telephone Company; the South of England Telephone Company; the Western Counties and South Wales Company; the Sheffield Telephone Exchange and Electric Light Company; and the Telephone Company of Ireland Ltd, as well as various smaller telephone companies. National Telephone CompanyWikipedia-W.svg
Liberals (Gladstone)
The Post Master General obtained a court judgement that telephone conversations were, technically, within the remit of the Telegraph Act.[25] The General Post Office then licensed all existing telephone networks.
Conservatives (Disraeli)
Telephone: The Post Office commenced its telephone business, although most telephones were connected to privately run networks.
Liberals (Gladstone)
Telegraph: Several private telegraph companies were established in the mid 19th century. The Telegraph Act 1868 granted the Postmaster-General the right to acquire inland telegraph companies, and the Telegraph Act 1869 conferred a monopoly in telegraphic communication in the UK.
Liberals (Palmerston)
Post Office Savings Bank was set up by the Palmerston govt, the world's first postal savings system. The scheme was a simple one, aimed at encouraging ordinary people to provide for themselves against adversity and ill health.[26] General Post Office § Banking servicesWikipedia-W.svg, (Post Office Savings Bank Act 1861)
Conservatives (Smith-Stanley)
Post Boxes: the first pillar box was used in Jersey, with more being erected in mainland Britain the folliwng year.[27] In 1919, air mail came about, and the London Post Office Railway officially opened in 1927.
Jan.1840 Uniform Penny Post was introduced, providing a single minimum fee of one penny to deliver mail anywhere in the country, which was prepaid by the sender. Postage rates were now based on weight, regardless of distance.
Whigs (Lamb)
The Post Office Money Order system introduced.
Tories (Pitt the Younger)
Coach Delivery: John Palmer, a proprietor of the Bath theater, devised a plan to speed up mail delivery and make it more reliable by conveying the mail by coaches in the same way that packages were delivered. The first mail coach ran between Bristol and London.
Whigs (Stanhope)
The Postmaster of Bath, one Ralph Allen, developed and expanded the postal network of the country.
1710 Master of the Posts was renamed to "Postmaster General".


General Post Office was established in England by Charles II on his restoration. The postal service was known as the Royal Mail because it was built on the distribution system for royal and govt documents. The GPO eventually grew to combine the functions of state postal system and telecommunications carrier. Similar General Post Offices were established across the British Empire. An Act for Erecting and Establishing a Post Office, 1660
1657 Fixed Rates were established for the delivery of letters. (Postage Act 1657).
1654 Office of Postage: Oliver Cromwell granted a monopoly over the mail delivery service in England, franchising it to the highest bidder.
Jul.1635 King Charles I made his postal service available to the public, with postage being paid by receiver. The service was run by various individuals, who used their monopoly to make a great deal of money.
1603 King James I established a postal service between London and Edinburgh to help retain control over the Scottish Privy Council.
1516 Master of the Posts role was established by Henry VII.
Additional Sources: Royal Mail History. The Social Historian. Accessed Jun.30.2020. ♦ The Royal Mail: a history of the British postal service. Heidi Blake, The Telegraph, Jun.10.2010. Original archived on Jun.13.2010.Key dates in Post Office history. Consignia plc, Nov.2002. Original archived on Mar.31.2004.


  • Dec.19.2018: BT to shake up executive pay after shareholder revolt on chief’s bonus. BT has moved to pacify shareholders after it suffered a revolt over the £2.3m pay package for Gavin Patterson, its departing boss. BT said yesterday that despite its remuneration committee using discretion to reduce the bonus, investors still “felt that the amount paid did not appropriately reflect the underlying performance of the company or take adequate account of the value created for shareholders. BT stopped short of clawing back any of the bonus, but said it would “take steps to implement a more structured process to help it step through the application of its discretion in the future”. Alex Ralph, The Times.
  • Oct.26.2018: ‘Out of this world pay’ for BT boss. BT under fire for handing new chief executive Philip Jansen a “stratospheric” pay and bonus package worth more than £8m a year - while cutting 13,000 jobs as part of a restructuring designed to spur revenue growth. Jansen joins BT at a time of turmoil after years battling OfCom, the industry watchdog, over its Openreach division, which owns the broadband network. The group is under pressure to invest more in its network, maintain its generous dividend payments and fill a large deficit in its pension scheme. Simon Duke, The Times.
  • Jun.23.2018: Rake over the coals. Should Sir Mike Rake have attended a meeting last year to decide BT’s new auditor? On the face of it, obviously not. Yet to say Sir Mike influenced BT to pick his old shop is probably going a bit far. For starters, he’d left the firm 10 years before — without any KPMG pension. And the well-connected Sir Mike has been on enough boards since — Barclays, easyJet plc, Worldpay, CBI president — to know how to manage conflicts. ... Alistair Osborne, The Times.
  • Jun.23.2018: BT chief denies audit conflict. Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT until Nov.2017, was involved in the process to appoint KPMG as its auditor, despite an apparent conflict of interest because he had led the Big Four accountancy firm for ~10 years. The revelation will also raise concerns about BT’s governance. KPMG was named as BT’s auditor in Jun.2017 after the telecoms group ended its relationship with PwC following the discovery of a £500m fraud at BT’s Italian business. Accountancy regulator Financial Reporting Council this week accused KPMG of an “unacceptable deterioration” in its audits. KPMG also has been criticised by MPs for “cursory” audits of Carillion. Sir Michael siad he had “no part in a recommendation” to go with KPMG and had been asked to attend the meetings by Nick Rose, head of the audit committee. Deloitte was dropped by SIG, a construction company, in May after 78% of shareholders voted against it; it had emerged that SIG had overstated its profits for years. Tabby Kinder, The Times.
  • Jun.09.2018: BT targets outsider as new chief. BT is looking for outside candidates to be its next chief executive after sacking Gavin Patterson yesterday. The telecoms group announced plans to replace Patterson only a month after the board had backed him to a lead a big restructuring. BT has embarked on its biggest shake-up in a decade, cutting 13,000 jobs and vacating its London headquarters. However, Jan du Plessis, chairman since Nov.2017, has decided that “there is a need for a change of leadership to deliver this strategy”. Alex Ralph, Miles Costello, The Times.
  • Mar.16.2018: Embattled BT forced to call in consultant as head of strategy. BT moved to strengthen its management team yesterday with the appointment of Michael Sherman to a newly-created role of chief strategy and transformation officer, as the telecoms giant battles to draw a line under a difficult period for the group. It has been under mounting political pressure to invest more in the rollout of full fibre internet connections to more UK homes. Last year it was forced to legally separate its wholesale broadband division Openreach from the rest of the company. Robin Pagnamenta, The Times.
  • Jul.19.2017: Ofwat chief quits for private sector job. Cathryn Ross is leaving at the end of the year to join BT and lead its battle with telecomms regulator OfCom. Cathryn Ross, who has run OfWat for nearly 4 years, is to head BT's regulatory affairs operation. The telecoms firm has had a bad year, marked by an accounting scandal in Italy and a record £42m fine from OfCom for overcharging for broadband access in the UK. more Julia Kollewe, The Guardian.


  1. ^ a b Communications: regulation and outsourcing in the UK (England and Wales): overview. Diane Mullenex, Thomson Reuters Practical Law, Mar.01.2018.
  2. ^ Universal Service Obligation. OfCom, Mar.21.2005.
  3. ^ Universal Service Obligations. OfCom, Jul.25.2003.
  4. ^ Corporate Political Engagement Index 2018. The new index of 104 multi-national companies, many of whom regularly meet with govt, has found nearly 75% are failing to adequately disclose how they engage with politicians. Only one company received the highest grade, with the average grade being "E" – representing poor standards in transparency. Transparency International UK, Nov.2018.
  5. ^ Did Separating Openreach from British Telecom Benefit Consumers? J Gregory Sidak, Andrew P Vassallo, World Competition 38, No.1, pp.31-76., 2015. Original archived on Oct.30.2015.
  6. ^ EE would rather you didn’t notice its 99% 4G population coverage John McCann, TechRadar, Nov.23.2016. Original archived
  7. ^ a b c d e The historical development of BT. BT plc. Original archived on May.27.2010.
  8. ^ Telefonica bids £18bn for UK's O2. BBC News, Oct.31.2005.
  9. ^ Spain's Telefonica to buy O2. The Register, Oct.31.2005.
  10. ^ a b BT unveils new mobile brand. BBC News, Sept.03.2001.
  11. ^ About Yell: Yell UK history. Yell Ltd. Original archived on Feb.08.2008.
  12. ^ [1] Companies House.
  13. ^ UK Post Office name change. BBC News, Jan.09.2001.
  14. ^ Consignia: Nine letters that spelled fiasco. BBC News, May.31.2002.
  15. ^ The Company File: BT gobbles up Cellnet. British Telecom has bought Securicor's 40% stake in Cellnet for £3.15bn, making the mobile phone operator its wholly-owned subsidiary. BBC News, Jul.27.1999.
  16. ^ About Yell: Group history. Yell Ltd. Original archived on Feb.08.2008.
  17. ^ a b Privatisation. Archives Information, BT plc, Nov.2006. Original archived on Dec.25.2010.
  18. ^ The Sale of Girobank plc. National Audit Office, Jan.29.1993. Original archived on Jul.03.2020.
  19. ^ Mercury Communications Ltd. House of Commons Debate, Vol.25, cc595-7, Hansard, Jun.14.1982. Original archived on Mar.06.2019.
  20. ^ Events in Telecommunications History. BT Archives, BT plc. Original archived on Jul.19.2013.
  21. ^ Girobank disappars in A&L makeover. Andrew Cave, The Telegraph, Jul.07.2003. Original archived on Jan.25.2011.
  22. ^ Postcodes. Consignia plc, Noc.2002. Original archived on Mar.31.2004.
  23. ^ Department Code NSC. Records created or inherited by the National Savings Committee, the Post Office Savings Department and the Department for National Savings. The National Archives. Accessed Jul.02.2020.
  24. ^ The National Giro. The National Archives. Accessed Jan.27.2020.
  25. ^ Evolution of British Post Office Telephones. HJC Spencer, R Freshwater, Bob's Telephone File, Nov.22.2007. Original archived on Sept.24.2010.
  26. ^ About NS&I: The Story of NS&I. National Savings and Investments. Original archived on Aug.22.2013.
  27. ^ Green Post Boxes. Julian Stray, The Postal Museum, Feb.21.2017.