Ofcom to force BT to open up tunnels and poles

Ofcom to force BT to open up tunnels and poles

Ofcom has announced its grand plan for encouraging the deployment of full-fibre broadband (i.e. FTTP or "ultrafast") networks to the United Kingdom, and at the same time "reducing the country's reliance on Openreach", the infrastructure arm of BT that owns all of the ducts and poles used to deliver copper telephone wires to everyone in the UK.

Ofcom is proposing that other telecom providers should be able to lay fiber using BT's ducts and poles as easily as BT itself.

Rival broadband providers - such as Sky, TalkTalk, and Vodafone - will also be able to lay fibre cables for consumers and businesses if the main reason is to provide broadband to homes and small offices.

Final connections into homes: BT should ensure capacity is available on its telegraph poles for additional fibre cables that connect buildings to a competitor's network.

The telecoms regulator recently published more detailed plans for improving access to Openreach's ducts and poles as part of its review of the wholesale network access market, with the intention of spurring other CSPs to invest in ultrafast broadband and reduce dependence on Openreach, which is now in the process of legally splitting from parent BT.

Ofcom Competition Policy Director Yih-Choung Teh said: "People increasingly need fast, reliable broadband".

BT's last-mile wholesale network subsidiary, Openreach, will have to adopt the new rules from 1 April 2018, said Ofcom.

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"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", he added.

PIA (Physical Infrastructure Access) has existed in some form since 2010 but has never been taken up in any appreciable scale and with Ofcom now setting its sights on the United Kingdom reaching full fibre coverage of over 50% across the United Kingdom reducing the cost for new operators to deploy networks is central to this goal.

Ofcom has announced plans to allow broadband suppliers access to the network infrastructure arm of BT, a move that could lead to improved broadband for consumers. 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. Other providers now carry out their own work on the infrastructure, which has helped reduce delays.

Ofcom recognised the importance of ducting early on in the rollout of fibre in the United Kingdom, and in 2010 the regulator forced BT to open up its ducting so that rival ISPs could lay their own fibre connections.

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

Ofcom is also considering changes to how BT handles drop wires, the final connection between a pole (or duct) and the customer.

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