BT has appointed Clive Selley as the new CEO of its Openreach access networks division. (See BT's Clive Selley Named as New Openreach CEO.)
As the CEO of BT technology, service and operations (TSO), Selley is effectively the UK operator's current CTO/CIO. He will replace Openreach CEO Joe Garner, who is leaving the UK fixed-line operator to become boss of Nationwide Building Society.
Selley will move into his new position before the end of March, by which time BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is expected to have completed its £12.5 billion (US$18.2 billion) takeover of mobile operator EE . (See BT Locks Down £12.5B EE Takeover Deal.)
The merger could present Selley with a major challenge as Openreach adapts to the new reality of working with and alongside a mobile networks business that is also a part of the BT Group.
The appointment also comes as BT gets ready to start investing in a commercial deployment of G.fast technology, which is intended to boost the connection speeds the operator can deliver over last-mile copper loops.
BT spent much of last year testing and trialing G.fast and has outlined plans of using the technology to provide 300-500Mbit/s services to about 10 million UK premises by 2020. (See Long-Range, High-Speed Gfast Is Coming – BT and BT Puts G.fast at Heart of Ultra-Fast Broadband Plans.)
Selley's resume should make him an ideal replacement for Garner in the present circumstances: He is described as an expert in networks, software development and IT and has been ultimately responsible for the research and development work on G.fast and other network technologies that BT has been carrying out at its Adastral Park facility in Suffolk.
But technology advances are not the only reason these are interesting times for Openreach.
Created ten years ago to satisfy regulatory demands for greater transparency and a more level playing field in the UK broadband market, Openreach has recently been the target of criticism from a number of the UK's other service providers.
Keen to avoid purchasing backhaul services from a company that will soon become its biggest mobile rival, Vodafone recently struck an agreement with CityFibre -- a smaller competitive player rolling out fiber networks -- that could provide Vodafone with a backhaul alternative to BT in future. (See Vodafone UK Looking Into 1Gbit/s 4G.)
Meanwhile, TalkTalk, which has long complained about the fees Openreach charges for network access, has been trialing its own fiber-to-the-home network in the city of York in partnership with CityFibre and Sky , a broadband rival. (See TalkTalk Unveils Cut-Price Gigabit Service.)
Selley's job may involve placating existing customers and convincing them that Openreach's offerings remain superior to those of its infrastructure rivals.
"The huge investment it has made over the past decade has made the UK a broadband leader, and we need to build on those foundations by deploying fiber to further communities and by rolling out ultrafast broadband," said Selley in a statement. "Customer service is a top priority of mine and I am committed to delivering further improvements by working closely with all industry partners who rely on our network to serve their customers."
BT says a successor to Selley at TSO will be announced "in due course."
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading