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BT Told to Share Poles for Ultrafast Fibre Internet

Telecom regulator, Ofcom says BT has to make it simpler for rival internet providers to have access to its telegraph poles, connecting homes directly to the fibre network provides quicker internet speeds than copper cables.

To make it more economical for companies to connect ultrafast full fibre broadband infrastructure, Ofcom has published a list of new measures so that companies such as Talk Talk and Hyperoptic can become more competitive.

BT has said, “it will consider the implications”.

What are the new Ofcom measures?

Ofcom states that full fibre internet is only accessible currently to 3% of homes and offices in the UK. It said BT must make it easier for rivals to install fibre on its telegraph poles and in its underground tunnels.

The regulator wants a more distinct map of where there is available capacity both on telegraph poles and in tunnels for rivals to take advantage of.

Ofcom maintains streets could be hooked up to full fibre in hours instead of days as to lay cables would no longer require roads to be dug up.

It also estimated that infrastructure sharing could slash the cost of connecting a home to the full fibre by half from an estimated £500 to £250.

In addition to this, BT will now be disqualified from reducing its prices in those areas where rival companies will start to install setups.

Openreach, the organisation that maintains most of the country’s telephone lines, will be instructed to repair or replace infrastructure that does not conform or is faulty, clearing a path for rivals to access its tunnels.

Ofcom said in a statement, “Openreach must ensure there is space on its telegraph poles for extra fibre cables connecting homes to a competitor’s network”.

Ofcom hopes these new measures will see 6 million structures connected by 2020.

How have BT and Openreach reacted?

BT said it had “noted” the publication of Ofcom’s proposals, and in a statement, stated the changes would have an “adverse financial impact on Openreach’s revenue and profit”, estimated at somewhere in the region of £80m to £120m.

Speaking about the constraints placed upon varying its prices, BT said it was, “considering the implications for full and fair competition”.

BT also reacted by saying that it had already been allowing competitors use its telegraph poles and tunnels, “Our ducts and poles have been open since 2011 and we have been sharing a digital map of this network for more than a year,” adding that telecoms companies had to, “be certain they can secure a return on their investment” for a rollout of full fibre nationwide to be realised.

How have BT’s rivals reacted?

Talk Talk said the publication from Ofcom was, “good for consumers, competition and investment”, with Hyperoptic saying the move would reinforce the business case for investment for full fibre networking. “This will ultimately create a better digital future for the UK, not just serve the interests of BT retail,” said Hyperoptic chief executive Dana Tobak.

Consumer watchdog, Which? Believe that change needs to happen more quickly. “Consumers are crying out for better broadband…steps to ensure more investment in this vital service can’t come soon enough,” said spokeswoman Alex Neill.

Oddly, the government, after years of insisting that the cost of providing full fibre right to the home was prohibitive and that a copper connection to a kerbside cabinet was completely acceptable, has changed its mind.

With the regulator making the maths add up, the government is imposing upon BT to open up its network of telegraph poles and tunnels to its competitors.

Cynics will, of course, point out that this should have happened many years ago, and that the really gallant option would have been to separate Openreach from BT a long time ago turning it into a nationwide, fibre-to-the-home, operation.

Sadly that particular train has left the station. Ofcom now says that overlying fast fibre networks provided by BT and its competitors will bring further innovation and a better covenant for consumers.

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