UK Diary: Tuesday – It Never Rains But It Pours . . . More BT Innovation

by on July 14, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Tuesday afternoon with the Traveling Geeks and we are over at BT HQ seeing half-a-dozen presentations from its business units.

We were a little wet from dodging torrential rain bursts. But the afternoon sessions are interesting.

Meghan Asha was impressed by BT’s programmable broadband service:

BT’s Open Broadband is a BRILLANT solution to broadband issues for businesses. What is it exactly? As far as I can understand, it allows companies to easily program broadband strength with a couple paragraphs of XML for specific websites. This is fantastic for stream gaming where you’re gaming via the cloud. In short, this is perfect for any application that needs guaranteed bandwidth. I love this idea, if only someone would implement it in the US. My first site request would be YouTube (bah!).

Click here for more info on the development of Open Broadband.

BT’s Programmable Broadband!

Innovation apprentice

We also heard about BT’s apprentice program, which involves several hundred high school students every year. BT sets up day camps where young people brainstorm new ideas. Then it offers to show them how ideas are developed into commercial products. It’s an excellent program. Interestingly, school drop outs are encouraged to attend — it’s more about ideas and passion than it is about how well someone did at school.

A level playing field

BT is tightly regulated and it must provide equal access to its telecom infrastructure to any company. This is fine for BT because it is keen to have many companies create innovative applications on top of this platform, in addition to the new services it is rolling out itself.

I asked JP Rangaswami, Managing Director of Innovation and strategy at BT, how does BT avoid the impression that it could become a competitor to the companies it is hoping will use its advanced communications platform.

“We make sure that we only innovate around platform services and leave the applications alone,” he said. “We want to avoid the criticism that others such as Microsoft have had about this issue.”

I mentioned that four years ago I was at an event where Rob Hull, a business development manager at BT Group was talking with local entrepreneurs and hoping to lure them to the UK and have them use BT’s telecom platform. Mr Hull said that BT would split the revenues with the startups 80 percent, with 20 percent for BT.

However, should their service become hugely popular, BT reserved the right to port the application to its machines and reverse a 20 percent / 80 percent revenue split in its favor! I was shocked.

(Silicon Valley startups told: Come to London … BT wants your business! – SiliconValleyWatcher)

Mr Rangaswami said that this provision no longer exists. Since he joined BT in 2006, he’s made sure to ensure there is very competitive platform for developers without fear of BT coming in and scooping up the rewards from popular services.

Next: We’re back into the rain and off to the Guardian newspaper…