The initial results of a consultation between Openreach and its customers has shown “broad support” for the construction of a pure fibre network in the UK but how it will be paid for remains uncertain.
The BT-owned wholesaler initiated the consultation in July as it looks to deliver on a requirement to become more independent from its parent.
Customers such as Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk, as well as hundreds of other smaller providers, confidentially put forward their views about a future FTTP network.
Unveiling the findings, Openreach said it found there was agreement about the need for building a “large-scale” pure fibre network and about migrating end users to the new network as quickly as possible.
However, how this will be paid for is set to dominate the debate in future.
Openreach has committed to connecting two million premises to FTTP by 2020 but if it is to reach a wider goal of 10 million homes and businesses then various things will need to change.
The company highlighted some regulatory barriers that need to be overcome, including the cutting of red tape that will enable it to carry out work on privately-owned land.
But it is to what extent that the likes of Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk are going to be willing to subsidise the network that will be key.
Openreach put the investment it would need to make to reach 10 million homes at between £3-6 billion.
To make a viable business case, it said that costs should be spread “fairly across a broad customer base” and via an increase in wholesale prices.
It noted that its customers were resigned to the fact that charging “a large premium for ultrafast services alone is unlikely to succeed”.
On the plus side, it said it had managed to halve the cost of delivering FTTP during the last 12 months.
Co-investment, which was mentioned briefly in the release put out by Openreach, is another idea being explored.
However, at Broadband World Forum last week, Openreach Chair Mike McTighe suggested this model would only be used on a "tactical" basis.
The wholesaler said it would now consult on a more specific set of proposals that cover potential pricing, footprint, and a plan for automatic switchover, by the end of 2017.
Openreach CEO Clive Selley said: “We believe that under the right conditions, we could build FTTP connections to 10 million homes and businesses by the mid-2020s.
“We want to do it, we think it’s the right thing to do for the UK, but it’s clear that we can’t do it alone, so I’m encouraged to hear that our wholesale customers support our vision.
“Having said that, we’re under no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead because we need to build a business case that’s workable and fair for everyone.
“That means we need a regulatory environment that encourages investment, and we need to agree how the costs of such a huge engineering project can be recovered fairly from all those that stand to benefit.”