The CEOs of Openreach, CityFibre, and TalkTalk said today that the changes brought on by COVID are here to stay, making the telecoms industry more integral to the UK than ever before

Panelists were united about the telecoms industry’s sparkling future in this morning’s Connected Britain keynote session, which saw Nokia’s Marketing Director for Europe, Paul Adams, pose questions to the CEOs of Openreach, CityFibre and TalkTalk.

Their message was clear: the world is changing, and connectivity is at its heart.

“In this new reality, right now, digital infrastructure is more important than roads and railways. It is absolutely crucial,” said Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach. “What me and my colleagues on this panel are doing will benefit 65 million people, the entire population of the UK. The impact of our investment and our work with customers will touch everybody in the country – the children, the adults, the elderly. It is right up there, alongside schools and hospitals, as the most critical infrastructure in the UK.” 

“I think our time has come,” he concluded.

When asked if the increased reliance on connectivity brought on by the pandemic was merely temporary, the panel were unanimous.

“We think home working is here to stay,” said Tristia Harrison, CEO of TalkTalk. “We would never go to 100% home working  – we all know the social benefits of meeting our colleagues in the office, of having creative, collaborative sessions face-to-face – there is nothing like it. But this sense that you have to be present 9–5, five days a week, I think that’s changing.”

“Some businesses are beginning to focus on their employees’ broadband at home,” explained CityFibre’s CEO Greg Mesch. “Not only are executives beginning to realise they need gigabit speeds in the office, but also in their employees’ homes.”

The panel were quick to acknowledge that, while the COVID crisis does offer an incredible opportunity for the industry, we must also remember that this transition has put a lot of strain on all of us, from customers to the industry’s workforce.

“I know it’s been very difficult during these times. I want everyone to remember to sometimes have a little fun,” said Mesch, donning a novelty red bowler hat with a grin. “It can be awfully boring building streets and digging up roads. But, at the end of the day, we are doing something that is so incredibly important.”



This transition to a more digital reality has not come out of the blue. For the panellists, COVID has merely accelerated a transformation that was already underway.

“All that’s happened is that the trend has been massively accelerated; we’ve compressed a decade into about six months,” said Selley. “That puts a huge onus on us. We now have to deliver this high-quality, super high-speed, low-latency network capability to 32 million home end-points, as well as the business premises. The baton has been passed to us as an industry." 

“I don’t think we as an industry have ever been in a better position than we are right now,” concluded Mesch, donning his novelty red hat. “I am thrilled to be in this industry.”


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