ibusinesslines.com August 17, 2017

UK Ofcom Sets Out Proposals To Open Up BT's Network Infrastructure

20 April 2017, 06:49 | Kelvin Horton

Can the BT Openreach conundrum be fixed without BT being forced to divest

Openreach engineer

The plans, which form part of Ofcom's wholesale local access market review, are subject to a consultation process which closes on June 15.

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.

The regulatory body claims the measures will deliver fibre broadband to people's doorsteps as competitors will be able to build their own fibre networks straight to them, using Openreach's existing telegraph poles and ducts (cables laid in underground tunnels).

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

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.

Ofcom remains concerned that the United Kingdom has very low coverage of full-fibre broadband, where cable and fibre lines connect directly to homes and offices. It said the cost to BT for providing this access should be spread across all users.

In response, Jonathan Carter Senior Media Relations Manager, Openreach said: "Our ducts and poles have been open since 2011 and Ofcom recognises the big steps we've taken recently to encourage more companies to use them". Other significant changes include a cap on how much BT charges for duct rental, and when a competitor pays for Openreach to pull a new fibre, Openreach should give an accurate time for the completion of that job.

But Ofcom said there is "more to be done", and its plans require Openreach to ensure the network of ducts and poles is "ready for use", meaning it would have to fix faulty infrastructure and clear blocked pipes on request within a timeframe agreed with its customers. Even the nuclear option-letting other providers carry out the engineering work themselves-is being mulled. Meanwhile, in December 2016, Ofcom announced a number of proposals around covering the cost of fibre roll out and conducting site surveys. Under the new plans, Openreach would be required to upgrade drop wires at the request of any FTTP provider.

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

Ofcom has set out plans to improve access to the infrastructure of BT Group's (LON:BT.A) network division Openreach, the industry watchdog has said.

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