Regulator Ofcom nails BT over rivals' access to telegraph poles

Regulator Ofcom nails BT over rivals' access to telegraph poles

United Kingdom comms regulator Ofcom has set out detailed plans for improving access to BT's network arm Openreach's infrastructure, making it cheaper and easier for competing providers to connect their own fibre broadband directly to homes and offices.

BT specifically must also ensure that there is enough capacity on its existing telegraph poles to allow its competitors to connected their cables to home networks.

Ofcom initially outlined plans to open up BT's physical network of ducts and poles in December, and it said Thursday that, since then, BT's soon to be legally separated Oepnreach division has made the process for accessing the network more efficient.

Ofcom Competition Policy Director Yih-Choung Teh said: "People increasingly need fast, reliable broadband".

Key to Ofcom's new reforms is much easier and cheaper access to BT's ducts and poles, so that competing providers can use the infrastructure "as easily as BT itself".

In a move created to encourage the building of superfast broadband networks, the regulator said the new rules would also reduce the historical reliance on Openreach, BT's infrastructure arm.

"This will put other providers on a level playing field with BT, so they have the confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks", added Teh.

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Ofcom said that for around half of United Kingdom homes, the property's final connection to the network comes directly from a telegraph pole.

Providers will be able to use Openreach's infrastructure to build their own networks, rather than relying on existing cabling. But begs to differ on major providers utilising Openreach's poles and ducts.

If a telecoms provider wants to build its own ultrafast network for consumers, but needs additional revenue to enable the investment, Ofcom is proposing that the company should also be able to use BT's infrastructure to provide "leased lines" - dedicated, high-speed cables used by large businesses.

"In accordance with its strategic review past year, Ofcom must ensure that all its regulation must support the business case for private investment and infrastructure competition".

However, BT's broadband fibre networks are now deployed by Openreach, and so our focus is on ensuring Openreach does not have an unfair advantage over competing network builders.

Finally, Ofcom has suggested that Openreach must ensure that there is sufficient capacity on its poles for CSPs to add dropwire fibre connections into individual premises, which had been flagged as a problem. This document forms part of Ofcom's review of the Wholesale Local Access (WLA) market and explains how its proposals will help competition concerns arising from BT's significant market power.

And the regulator warned BT that it is also considering changes to Openreach's rental charges for accessing its duct network, and will publish its take on that in the summer.

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