KCOM Group

KCOM Group

company_name = KCOM Group PLC
company_type = Public (lse|KCOM)
foundation = Originated 1882, floated as PLC 1999
location = Kingston upon Hull, United Kingdom
key_people = Malcolm Fallen, Chief Executive Officer
Michael Abrahams CBE, Chairman (non-executive)
industry = Telecommunications
products = Retail and Wholesale local and national telecommunications services,
Broadband and internet services (Eclipse Internet and Karoo),
IT and Network Solutions (Affiniti),
Mobile service (KC Mobile)
revenue = loss£ 80.8 million GBP (Year-end 31 March 2006)
num_employees = 2,700+ (2008)
homepage = [http://www.kcom.com www.kcom.com]

KCOM Group is a UK communications and IT services provider. It is headquartered in Kingston upon Hull, where subsidiary business unit Kingston Communications serves local residents and businesses with Internet and telephony services.


On 22 August 1902, Hull Corporation (which later became Hull City Council) was granted a licence to operate a municipal telephone system in the Kingston Upon Hull area, opening its first telephone exchange in 1904 at the former Trippett Street Baths.

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 in to 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 networks infrastructure. The council gave its approval, securing the future of the country's one remaining municipally owned corporation.

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 using Marconi System X telephone switches (Central Offices or Class 5 switches).

Since then, due to the relatively unusual nature of its network topology Kingston has also been able to pioneer services such as ADSL, Video on Demand and Digital TV. In February 2006, Kingston Communications announced that it would be ceasing its Video on Demand and Digital TV services (called Kingston Interactive TV - KIT) on 1 April 2006.

Kingston Communications was floated on the London stock exchange in 1999, during the peak of dot.com euphoria, and was for a short period in the FTSE 100 group of companies. The company celebrated its centenary five years later. [http://www.kcom.com/centenary/]

The KCOM Group now consists of a number of group companies including Kingston Communications, Affiniti (merging Kingston InBusiness, Omnetica and technica) - its business integration and services arm and Eclipse, the Internet Service Provider; and has a national 2000 km SDH fibre-optic backbone.

Because of its small footprint, Kingston Communications' Hull operation is also in an enviable position with respect to predatory behaviour by rival operators. Although it is under the same Ofcom and EU obligations with respect to local loop unbundling the addressable market is so small that the economics do not - by and large - justify entry by other companies.

To add more complications for any would-be rival of Kingston Communications is the fact that in Hull the first 1 km of wire from the exchange has a cross-section of 0.3 mm sq, as opposed to the standard 0.5 mm sq, require a more expensive DSLAM in the telephone exchange for providing an ADSL service.

Monopoly issues

As residents and most businesses in Hull are only served with telecoms services by Kingston Communications (KC), some service users are unhappy with the monopoly position KC has in the Hull area.

The main issue is that of Internet service provision; Kingston Communications' Karoo service is the only residential Broadband operator in the Hull area. According to a decision from the European Commission in 2004, Kingston Communications plc (“Kingston”) have 100% market share in the wholesale market of broadband services in the Hull area. [http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/infso/ecctf/library?l=/uk/registeredsnotifications/uk20030032/sgsgreffes2004sds200485p/_EN_1.0_&a=d] Issues include concerns over KCs acceptable use policy, the cost of the service and the inability to use other providers.

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 [http://www.ofcom.org.uk/bulletins/comp_bull_index/comp_bull_ccases/closed_all/cw_878/ Giacom complaint against Kingston Communications about failure to provide Wholesale ADSL access | Ofcom ] ] . The complaint is 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 Kingston resumed negotiations on a deal to allow Hull24 to use KC's network, as a result Giacom withdrew its complaint and Ofcom has closed the case.

In August 2007 the alleged monopoly of Kingston Communications was referred to the European Commission by Yorkshire and Humber MEP Diana Wallis. [ [http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2007/08/24/2884702.htm Euro commission informed of KC's monopoly ] ] .

In May 2008, the "Review of the wholesale broadband access markets" [ [http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/wbamr07/statement/statement.pdf Review of the wholesale broadband access markets - Final explanatory statement and notification ] ] report published by Ofcom determined that KCOM was "not" acting in a way that would keep out rival companies, and that pricing for wholesale broadband and access to LLU 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. [ [http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/news/Kcom-cleared-keeping-rival-broadband-companies/article-193652-detail/article.html Kcom cleared of keeping out rivals ] ]

ports sponsorship

The ground shared by Hull City football club and the Hull FC rugby league team is sponsored by and named after Kingston Communications - the Kingston Communications Stadium, more commonly known simply as the KC Stadium. Kingston Communications was announced as the shirt sponsor for Hull City from the 2007-08 season for at least two years. "Karoo" will appear on the home (amber) shirts and "Kingston Communications" will feature on the away (white) kit.

ee also

* Karoo ISP
* Eclipse Internet
* UK telephone numbering plan


External links

* [http://www.kcom.com/ KCOM Group Corporate website]

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