Optical/IP Networks

BT Names New OSS Boss

BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) CEO Ben Verwaayen, a Dutchman who joined the operator from Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), has bucked a trend with the appointment of his new CIO, Al-Noor Ramji (see BT Hires CIO From Qwest).

Ramji is neither Dutch, nor a Lucent veteran.

Ramji, who joins from Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), is the third senior appointment announced in the past week. He follows Francois Barrault (joining from Lucent), who was named as president of BT International last week, and Dutchman Roel Louwhoff, who's the new president of Customer Service at BT Global Services.

Rumor has it that Lucent's remaining Dutch employees are hunkered over their phones, just in case BT needs more new blood.

Ramji will work closely with Andy Green, the CEO of BT Global Services, and the carrier's CTO, Matt Bross, to develop BT's information systems strategy as it builds out and operates its next-generation infrastructure, dubbed the 21st Century, or 21C, network (see BT Gets Tough With Suppliers).

In addition to his CIO role, Ramji becomes CEO of BTexact, the operator's R&D unit, a move that makes sense, according to BT, because "transforming BT into a broadband company via the 21st Century Network programme creates significant challenges for our information systems and technology resources."

Whatever the reason, the combination of the two roles leaves current BTexact CEO, the highly regarded Stewart Davies, without a job.

Davies is regarded as the man who brought a business edge to BTexact. He's known for commercializing the R&D functions and working licensing deals and startup spinoffs that helped BTexact draw value from its intellectual property. He also helped BTexact forge links with the academic community, including the Cambridge-MIT Institute, a joint venture between the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A BT spokesman says the abrupt end to Davies's tenure was "by mutual agreement. Stewart is looking for a new challenge, and will remain at BT. We're discussing a number of options as to where he'll fit."

The personnel shifts come as BT Group faces renewed calls for it to be broken up. As part of its review of the telecom sector, the U.K.'s new regulator, Office of Communications (Ofcom), has asked its CTO, former BT man Peter Ingram, to examine the possibility, and potential impact, of splitting BT into separate companies (see Ofcom Reviews UK Telecom).

While its competitors would love to see the operator's wholesale and retail divisions truly separated (as well as see BT's nose put out of joint by the regulator), the national carrier is confident it can stave off any efforts to break up the group.

BT says any such move would be a costly waste of time that would ultimately hamper the creation of new services. The carrier also says current regulation means its wholesale division, which runs the network, already treats all competitive operators and its retail division the same. A BT statement insists that "we don't give preferential treatment to our own marketing operations."

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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