Sky CEO: BT Openreach Is Holding UK Broadband Back

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As Ofcom review nears its conclusion, Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch once again calls for BT and Openreach to be split and 1Gbps broadband to be delivered

Sky has reiterated calls for Ofcom to recommend the separation of BT and Openreach when the regulator publishes conclusions to its once-in-a-decade review of the UK communications market later this week and says the UK is being held back by not having widespread access to 1Gbps speeds.

BT’s rivals, including Sky, contest this view and argue that BT’s dominance means it has no incentive to invest in fibre to the premise (FTTP), instead preferring to ‘sweat’ its existing assets by boosting speeds on copper through technologies like G.Fast instead of laying more fibre.

Ofcom’s is considering a formal split, alongside a range of other proposals, but BT says the current structure is working well and that an independent Openreach would result in less investment in infrastructure.

Read More: Will Ofcom Review Break Up BT And Openreach?

‘Limitless’ transformation

sky q top picks living roomSky CEO Jeremy Darroch said the issue is more than just a battle between commercial rivals and affects the entire of the country, which could be transformed by 1Gbps speeds.

If the UK is to improve its productivity and international competitiveness, and ensure our businesses, homes, schools and hospitals benefit from the latest technology, then we need better digital infrastructure including an ultrafast broadband network with speeds of 1Gbps or more, through [FTTP],” he said. “Ultrafast connectivity is critical to Britain’s future economic and social welfare.

“BT has shown little willingness to invest in fibre to the premises. Instead, it plans incremental upgrades to decades-old copper cables as the final connection to homes and businesses, falling far short of the potential of a true fibre network. Indeed what it has chosen to invest in faster broadband, has come largely at the expense of investment needed to maintain the existing copper network, resulting in the service levels so many complain about.”

Separation

Darroch added that it was not economically viable for any other operator to build a rival network while BT’s retail operations were linked to that of Openreach.

Sky and TalkTalk are working together on a joint-venture in York to build a city-wide FTTP network as part of a model that could be expanded nationwide if successful. TalkTalk has been optimistic about the project, but Darroch said it was difficult to achieve a reasonable investment without being able to compete for BT’s retail broadband business in the wholesale market.

“It is naive to think that under the existing structure anything will change,” he continued. “It is clear the status quo is not an option.”

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