Ofcom proposes new rules for BT ducts and poles to ignite UK fibre rollout

BT, Openreach, Ofcom, broadband

Ofcom has set out new proposals to allow service providers to gain simpler and cheaper access to BT’s ducts and poles in order to lay full-fibre broadband connections to homes and offices.

The UK regulator wants to make it quicker and easier for rival providers to build their own fibre networks direct to homes and offices using BT’s existing telegraph poles and ducts.

It said markets like Spain and Portugal have used duct and pole access to deliver full-fibre broadband coverage of 79 percent and 70 percent respectively.

This compares to around two percent in the UK, it said.

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

"Our plans will give providers increased confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks at reduced cost.”

Ofcom ordered the legal break-up of BT and Openreach at the end of last month as part of its broader agenda to increase competition in the UK fibre market.

Among its latest proposals, it has suggested a cap on rental prices, currently pegged to Openreach costs, for BT’s duct network, affording competitors greater planning certainty.

It has also proposed BT could recover costs of providing third-party access, such as for repairs, by spreading them across all services that make use of the duct.

Simpler processes for site surveys are on the agenda too.

Ofcom said these are “unnecessarily onerous” as it stands.

Competitors should be allowed to carry out their own engineering work, or else secure service-level agreements if BT takes charge of engineering on site, it said.

Ofcom is also consulting on whether to require Openreach to upgrade its ‘drop wires’, linked from nearby telegraph poles, with fibre instead at the request of competitors offering a full-fibre broadband service.

As it stands, BT can connect a premises by replacing its existing copper drop wire with fibre, whereas competitors face space and load constraints on BT’s poles, it said.

Ofcom also wants to see Openreach provide a new ‘digital map’ with comprehensive data on the nature and location of its ducts and poles to allow competitors to plan and deploy advanced networks.

A consultation period on its latest proposals closes at the end of January.

Ofcom said it is working with the Government to give “everyone” the right to request a 10Mbps broadband service by 2020, with access to ultrafast broadband of 30Mbps further down the line.

BT plans to connect two million premises to pure fibre broadband by 2020.

Ofcoms said: "Competitors to BT have expressed concerns about the costs and time required to build these networks.

"Today’s plans are designed to reduce these hurdles significantly, encouraging a new era of network competition in the UK.”

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