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Ofcom fleshes out plans to open up BT's ducts and poles

Come lay your fibre in BT's pipes, says regulator

By Kat Hall, 6 Dec 2016

UK comms watchdog Ofcom has fleshed out its proposals to open up BT's ducts and poles - intended to encourage rivals to access Openreach's infrastructure and lay their own "full fibre" networks.

Part of its plans, outlined in the once-in-a-decade Digital Communications Review earlier this year, include the promotion of large-scale roll-out of ultrafast broadband, based on cable and fibre lines that go all the way to people’s doorsteps.

In that review Ofcom recommended a legal separation of Openreach from BT - an option it recently decided to press ahead with it.

The regulator hopes that by having greater access to BT's infrastructure, more competition will provide an alternative to the mostly copper-based technologies currently being planned by BT and "reduce the country’s reliance on Openreach."

Telcos have technically had access to BT's infrastructure for some time.

Ofcom's plans, which are today open for consultation, are intended 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" – the small, underground tunnels that carry telecoms cables.

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.

“Today we’re explaining how access to BT’s tunnels and poles could be improved, allowing other providers to connect ultrafast, fibre broadband directly to UK homes and offices. Our plans will give providers increased confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks at reduced cost.”

One proposal already mooted is the creation of a "digital map" of the UK, to allow competing operators to plan and deploy advanced networks.

Other measures suggested include: changes to Openreach's rental charges for accessing its duct network; a requirement for service-level agreements and guarantees; and whether to require Openreach to upgrade its drop wires with fibre at the request of any telecoms provider who is offering full-fibre broadband to a customer.

The consultation will close on 31 January 2017. ®

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