Ofcom wants to open up BT’s infrastructure for new fibre broadband

UK fibre investment
Telecom regulator Ofcom announced plans for improving access to Openreach’s telecom infrastructure, enabling competing providers to connect their own fibre broadband directly and cost-effectively to homes and offices.

Ofcom said the new measures are designed to enhance investment in internet, and reduce reliance on Openreach – the network business within BT Group.

Ofcom believes that BT’s rivals can build their own fibre networks to users’ homes or building using Openreach’s existing telegraph poles and ducts that carry telecoms cables.

Providers should be able to lay fibre using BT’s ducts and poles; and the cost to BT for providing this access should be spread across all users.

Openreach must repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels where necessary for providers to access them.

Companies can lay fibre for consumers and large businesses, provided the purpose of the network is primarily to deliver broadband to homes and small offices.

BT should ensure capacity is available on its telegraph poles for additional fibre cables that connect buildings to a competitor’s network.

Openreach will continue to develop a digital map of its duct and pole network so competitors can plan new networks.

“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,” said Yih-Choung Teh, competition policy director of Ofcom.

Ofcom remains concerned that the UK has very low coverage of full-fibre broadband, where cable and fibre lines connect directly to homes and offices.

BT’s competitors have raised concerns about the costs and time required to build these networks. To address this, Ofcom committed to lower these hurdles by improving access to Openreach’s existing infrastructure.

Reusing existing underground ducts can reduce the time it takes to roll out a new network. While it can take days to build 200 meter of duct using traditional construction methods, fibre cables could be installed in the same length of existing duct in a matter of hours.

If a telecoms provider wants to build its own ultrafast network for consumers, but needs additional revenue to enable the investment, Ofcom is proposing that the company should also be able to use BT’s infrastructure to provide ‘leased lines’ – dedicated, high-speed cables used by large businesses. This can help strengthen the business case for new investment.

Ofcom is proposing that BT must ensure capacity is available on its telegraph poles for additional fibre cables that connect buildings to the network.

Ofcom has told Openreach to provide comprehensive data on its network of ducts and poles – a digital map of the UK to allow competitors to plan and deploy their own advanced networks.

The consultation closes on 15 June 2017, and Ofcom expects to publish its final decisions in early 2018, with new rules taking effect on 1 April 2018.

Ofcom is also considering changes to Openreach’s rental charges for accessing its duct network, and we expect to publish specific proposals on this in the summer.