KCOM Group

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KCOM Group plc
KCOM
Formerly called
Kingston Communications (KC)
Public company
Traded as LSEKCOM
Industry Telecommunications
Founded Originated 1882, floated as PLC 1999
Headquarters Kingston upon Hull, United Kingdom
Key people
Bill Halbert
(Chief Executive)[1]
Products Retail and Wholesale local and national telecommunications services,
Broadband and internet services and IT and Network Solutions, Mobile service (KCOM Mobile)
Revenue £348 million (2014/15)[2]
Website www.kcomplc.com

KCOM Group (formerly known as Kingston Communications and latterly KC) is a UK communications and IT services provider. Its headquarters are in Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, where it serves local residents and businesses with Internet and telephony services. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The area has no BT landlines, as it would not be economically viable to build a BT network there. Therefore, the vast majority of residents and most businesses in Hull, Cottingham and Beverley are served only with telecoms services by KCOM, and as a result, there have been complaints around internet service provisioning. KCOM's broadband service is the only fixed-line residential broadband operator in the Hull area. This means that the company has a virtual monopoly in Hull, despite the fact that there are now some competitors to KCOM's telephone services.

History[edit]

On 22 August 1902, Hull Corporation (which later became Hull City Council) was granted a licence under the Telegraph Act 1899 to operate a municipal telephone system in the Kingston upon Hull area, opening its first telephone exchange on 28 November 1904 at the former Trippett Street Baths.[3]

At the time, there were a number of such municipal telephone companies around the UK, all of which – with the exception of the one in Hull – were gradually absorbed into the Post Office Telephone department, which was subsequently to become British Telecom (BT). Hull's bid to renew its licence in 1914 was made conditional on the £192,000 purchase of National Telephone Company infrastructure in the city. The council gave its approval, securing the future of the country's only remaining municipally owned telephone corporation.[3]

The first Rotary automatic exchange opened in 1922, and from 1934 Strowger exchanges were installed. Rotary and Strowger exchanges were operated to 1975 and 1988 respectively, and two Crossbar exchanges to 1989, when the network became fully digital.[4]

Hull has therefore remained an exception within the UK telephone network, being the only place in the UK not served by BT and is noted for its distinctive cream coloured telephone boxes and innovative services, for example becoming the UK's first fully digital network in 1989![3] using Marconi System X telephone switches (Central Offices or Class 5 switches).

The Company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1999.[5]

In the early part of the new millennium, the company started to pioneer services such as ADSL, Video on Demand and Digital TV. In February 2006, it announced that it would be ceasing its Video on Demand and Digital TV services (called Kingston Interactive TV – KIT) on 1 April 2006.[6]

In 2007, Kingston Communications changed its name to KCOM Group.[7] From 2009, the management of some of its network assets has been outsourced to BT Group plc.[8]

In 2014 Ofcom forced all providers to offer broadband and phone bundles together to offer better value to customers. Karoo's cheapest bundle was £29.99 per month. On 4 April 2016, KCOM Group PLC Moved all of its brand under a single KCOM brand name.

Operations[edit]

Former KC logo (2010-2016)

KCOM provides ADSL, VDSL and FTTH broadband internet and telephone service in Hull and surrounding areas. The company only provide broadband services to customers with a KCOM residential telephone line. KCOM formerly provided these services under the Karoo and later KC brands, until it adopted the group name across its entire business in 2016.[9] KCOM also provides business broadband services through its Eclipse Internet subsidiary.

In September 2011, the company began a six-month trial of a 100 Mbit/s service in the East Riding of Yorkshire village of Woodmansey. Around 300 homes were involved in the trial.[10] The trial was part of a plan to roll out increased speeds to more than 15,000 homes across the East Riding of Yorkshire. The service is now available for up to 45,000 properties with a further 60,000, bringing the total fibre network to 105,000 properties by 2017.[11]

KCOM's Fibre to the premises product, Lightstream, requires a new fibre-optic cable be laid to each premises that is terminated inside the home in an ONT. A router is then plugged into the ONT to distribute the service throughout the home. As of April 2015, the service offers software limited speeds of up to 250Mbit/s downstream bandwidth. Due to delivery being FTTH greater speeds are a formality and fuelled by market expectation and not network restriction.

Before the introduction of unmetered, '0800' dialup Internet access and broadband, Karoo was one of the first ISPs in the country to offer untimed Internet calls. It followed on from the success of Demon Internet's Point of Presence (PoP) in Hull. This was set up with the initial formation of Demon in June 1992. Demon allowed users in Hull to make untimed 5.5p+vat calls to access the Internet via dialup accounts. Karoo followed on a few years after Demon removed their local PoP. Karoo Xtra allowed Kingston Communications customers untimed access for the price of a 5.5p (+ VAT) call charge (and a subscription fee of £15 per month).[citation needed]

This led to Hull gaining a reputation for being a so-called digital city, a reputation which still holds true with Hull being in the top 16 digital clusters in the UK according to Tech City's Tech Nation report.

Monopoly concerns[edit]

A Hull K6 telephone box

As residents and most businesses in Hull are served only with telecoms services by KCOM, there have been complaints around internet service provision; KCOM's broadband service is the only fixed-line residential broadband operator in the Hull area. According to a decision from the European Commission in 2004, KCOM Group held a 100% market share in the wholesale market of broadband services in the Hull area.[12]

In December 2005, Giacom, the owner of Hull24 – a rival broadband provider in the Hull area – complained to Ofcom regarding the provision of network access to KC's rivals.[13] The complaint was that "Giacom alleges that Kingston is not providing [network] access on reasonable terms as Kingston's pricing is anti-competitive and prohibitive to service providers [other than KC]". In April 2006 Giacom and KC resumed negotiations on a deal to allow Hull24 to use KC's network; as a result Giacom withdrew its complaint and Ofcom closed the case.[13]

In August 2007 the alleged monopoly of KC was referred to the European Commission by Yorkshire and Humber MEP Diana Wallis.[14]

In May 2008 the "Review of the wholesale broadband access markets"[15] report published by Ofcom determined that KC was not acting in a way that would keep out rival companies, and that pricing for wholesale broadband and access to local-loop unbundling was within the market range. The main reason cited by rivals for not providing services in the Hull area was rather one of overall cost effectiveness, given the relatively small number of potential customers (190,000 homes), and the fact that many of these would be likely to remain with the incumbent supplier.[16]

In July 2009, Nexus Telecoms signed an agreement with KC enabling them to offer effective wholesale line rental and call tariffs to business consumers within the Hull area so giving them a choice of service provider.[17] But, Nexus only provide broadband service to businesses, several other providers offering wireless internet access via an installed satellite on the property have set up and have taken some of KC's customers' including Pure Broadband and Connexin both local independent companies.

Sponsorships[edit]

KCOM holds the naming rights to KCOM Stadium of Hull City A.F.C. and the Hull FC rugby team, as well as the Lightstream Stadium of the Hull Kingston Rovers rugby league club.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]