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Ofcom sets out plans to open up BT's broadband network to rivals

Thursday, April 20th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom has set out detailed plans to make it easier for BT’s rivals to use Openreach’s broadband infrastructure.

The regulator said last year that Openreach’s network of ducts and poles should be made available for other providers to build their own fibre networks.

Openreach, which is in the process of becoming legally separate from BT, trialled new ways of sharing its infrastructure last summer.

It also launched a digital mapping tool earlier this year to give companies a comprehensive and interactive view of its national network.

Some providers now carry out their own work on the infrastructure, which has helped reduce delays.

But Ofcom wants to reduce the UK’s reliance on Openreach and encourage the rollout of fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband.

Currently, only 2% of British households can access full-fibre services.

Opening up BT’s ducts will allow providers to significantly reduce the time it takes to roll out a new network – as well as the cost.

Today Ofcom has proposed that providers should be able to lay fibre using BT’s ducts and poles as easily as BT itself.

BT’s rivals will also be able to use its infrastructure to provide high-speed leased lines to large businesses – as long as networks are primarily used to serve homes and small offices.

'Level playing field'

Ofcom said that for around half of UK homes, the property’s final connection to the network comes directly from a telegraph pole.

The new proposals would require BT to ensure there is enough spare capacity on its poles as providers often find there is insufficient space to run new cables.

Openreach will also have to make sure its ducts and poles are ‘ready for use’ by repairing faulty infrastructure and clearing blocked pipes on request.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s competition policy director, said: “People increasingly need fast, reliable broadband.

“We’ll make it easier for companies to offer their own full-fibre broadband more cheaply by accessing Openreach’s tunnels and telegraph poles.

“This will put other providers on a level playing field with BT, so they have the confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks.”

Mark Collins, director of strategy and policy at CityFibre, said reducing restrictions on duct and pole access (DPA) is a positive step towards the deployment of full fibre by alternative providers.

“We are undertaking extensive trials of DPA and believe it to be a valuable deployment option – but it is just part of the solution,” he said.

“To ensure the UK can secure a full fibre future, companies like CityFibre will need to continue to invest in our own physical network infrastructure at pace.

“In accordance with its strategic review last year, Ofcom must ensure that all its regulation must support the business case for private investment and infrastructure competition.”

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