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Broadband providers to gain easier access to BT’s network under new Ofcom proposals

Alex Yau
December 6, 2016

Ofcom claims the proposals would boost competition and speed the rollout of fibre broadband across the UK

Ofcom has outlined new plans to ensure the faster rollout of fibre broadband across the UK by ensuring providers have access to BT’s network of telegraph poles and ducts.

The regulator outlined its intentions today (December 6) claiming the increased competition between BT and rivals such as TalkTalk and Virgin Media would increase investment in fibre broadband. Fibre has long been considered as a much faster and reliable alternative to the copper-based wires favoured by BT. According to Ofcom, increased competition in Spain and Portugal has delivered full-fibre broadband coverage of more than 70 per cent, whilst the UK pales in comparison at just two per cent.

Ofcom added it would also reduce the UK’s reliance on Openreach, which has long been criticised for working in favour of BT. Many have criticised BT for not allowing rivals access to its network of poles and ducts. The regulator was slammed in July for its decision not to make both BT and Openreach two separate bodies. It did, however, decide to split the pair at the end of last month following ‘competition concerns.’

Ofcom competition policy director Yih-Choung Teh said: “Fibre is the future for broadband, and Ofcom is helping to deliver that through competition between networks.

“Today we’re explaining how access to BT’s tunnels and poles could be improved, allowing other providers to connect ultrafast, fibre broadband directly to UK homes and offices. Our plans will give providers increased confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks at reduced cost.”

Fair play

Under the new proposals, BT would have to cover the costs of allowing third-party access, such as the repairing of ducts. A cap may also be placed on rental charges whilst rivals will be notified when engineering work is expected for completion. Competitors may be allowed to undertake the engineering work themselves.

A new ‘digital map’ must soon be provided by Openreach, which will allow rivals to see the locations of ducts and poles. Ofcom intends to make this publicly available to all telecoms providers by next summer.


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