chapter  7
15 Pages

The Problems of the First Mover: The Case of British Telecom

WithMarit Sjovaag Marino

In 1984 British Telecom became the first major European incumbent telecommunications operator to be privatised and exposed to a new regulatory regime. This chapter attempts to trace the major developments within British Telecom after its privatisation in 1984. Commercial freedom granted to British Telecom allowed it to enter into new joint ventures and, if it so decided, to engage in the manufacture of its own apparatus. The Post office's legal monopoly in network and service provision covered all forms of transmission of electric signals, with the exception of broadcasting by wireless telegraphy and cable television. Pressure for competition in the telecommunications sector had been growing in the UK from the late 1960s, and by the late 1970s calls for competition in terminal equipment were frequent. British Telecommunications' path post-privatisation is unique in Europe not only because of its timing, but also because of the drawn-out character of the introduction of competition.