Openreach must improve its performance in installing high-speed business lines and slash its wholesale prices, UK regulator Ofcom has ruled, as it delivers on promises it made after resisting the opportunity to split it off from BT.
First, Ofcom proposed Openreach completes 80 percent of leased line orders by the date it promises customers within two years, rising to 90 percent from April 2018.
The current figure Openreach achieves is 71 percent, which Ofcom said was “too long”. The change will benefit other operators reliant on the incumbent’s infrastructure.
Second, the regulator said Openreach must fix at least 94 percent of faults on its leased line network within five hours within two years.
Ofcom did not provide current figures, but said Openreach fixed 93.1 percent of faults within this timeframe in 2011.
Third, the regulator confirmed plans to reduce the wholesale prices BT charges for leased lines services over a three-year period from 1 May this year.
Ethernet services will get an initial reduction in prices of 12 percent, while “traditional interface” services get an initial nine percent reduction in prices.
The fourth ruling relates to last month’s announcement that Openreach must open up its telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow competitors to construct their own fibre networks.
Ofcom has now confirmed that BT must give competitors physical access to its fibre-optic cables, allowing them to take direct control of the connection.
The new rules will be finalised at the end of April, subject to consideration by the European Commission.
Ofcom Competition Group Director Jonathan Oxley said: “All of us depend on high-speed, fibre optic lines. Businesses use them to communicate, and they also underpin the broadband and mobile services used by consumers at home and on the move.
“BT is relied on by many companies to install these lines, and its performance has not been acceptable.
“These new rules will mean companies across the UK benefit from faster installation times, greater certainty about installation dates, and fast repairs if things go wrong.”
Adrian Baschnonga, EY Lead Telecommunications Analyst, added: “Both the government and regulator recognise that consumers would benefit from a clearer pricing of packages – and the landline element of bundles does appear out of step with the digital age.
“New wholesale broadband products could pave the way for the removal of landline fees, yet existing line rental charges reflect the costs of maintaining physical copper lines that runs into homes.
“While there is scope to make broadband pricing and advertising more transparent, the scope for cost savings for consumers who don’t make fixed-line calls is less clear.”