Ofcom has set out detailed plans to improve access to Openreach’s infrastructure in order to support fibre investment. This should make it cheaper and easier for other providers to connect their own fibre broadband directly to homes and offices.
Designed to encourage investment in the next generation of ultrafast internet connections, as well as reducing the country’s historical reliance on Openreach, Ofcom also hope to provide consumers with the benefit of choice and more competitive pricing.
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.
To address the high costs and time associated with building the required networks, Ofcom hope to improve access to Openreach’s existing infrastructure.
If a telecoms provider wants to build its own ultrafast network for consumers, but needs additional revenue to enable the investment, Ofcom is proposing 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’s plans will make it quicker and easier for BT’s competitors to build their own fibre networks all the way to people’s doorsteps using Openreach’s existing infrastructure.
Providers should be able to lay fibre using BT’s ducts – the small, underground tunnels that carry telecoms cables – and telegraph poles, with the cost to BT for providing this access spread across all users.
Ofcom also suggest Openreach must repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels where necessary for providers to access them.
BT should also ensure its telegraph poles have the capacity for additional fibre cables that can connect buildings to a competitor’s network.
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.”
Openreach will continue to develop a ‘digital map’ of its duct and pole network so competitors can plan new networks.
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