BT must make Openreach more available to competition, says Ofcom

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Ofcom chief executive Sharon White

The regulator made the decision in its first major review of the telecoms and broadband industry for a decade

Ofcom has told Openreach it must become more independent from BT and give rivals better access to its cable network.

The regulator made its decision in a review on the telecoms and broadband sector published today (February 25). It is its first major review of the industry for a decade.

Established in 2005, Openreach builds and maintains BT’s network of copper and fibre-optic cables around the UK. Ofcom claimed in its review that Openreach still makes decisions in BT’s interests rather than its rivals, which can lead to competition problems. It said that BT group has too much control over Openreach’s decision making and budget processes

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White (pictured) said the decision would promote healthy competition and give UK customers more choice. She said: “Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices.

“This will help create more choice, while reducing the country’s reliance on Openreach.”

Although Ofcom urged Openreach to become more independent, it did not say a full split between to two was needed. However, it did not rule out a full separation and said proposals later this year may implement such actions.

BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson claimed the company would welcome interest from competitors. He said: “We are happy to let other companies use our ducts and poles if they are genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done.

“Our ducts and poles have been open to competitors since 2009 but there has been little very interest to date. We will see if that now changes.”

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