Ofcom Calls For BT To Share Fibre Network
Ofcom has ordered BT to open up its fibre network to rival ISPs, even though BT already does so
BT has been ordered to give its rivals access to its fibre lines by Ofcom, despite the fact that the UK carrier has already done so for some time now.
The idea behind Ofcom’s final regulatory statement for next-generation access networks in the UK, is that competing ISPs such as TalkTalk and BSkyB must be able to use BT infrastructure – including underground ducts and poles as well as its fibre-optic network – to channel high-speed broadband to customers.
“The development of the UK’s super-fast broadband future is well underway with the roll-out of services in large parts of the country,” said Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards. “Today Ofcom has finalised a clear regulatory framework to promote investment, competition and innovation to enable as many consumers as possible to benefit from these exciting new services.”
Ofcom’s stance has already been supported by the European Commission, which in June backed Ofcom’s proposals that rival ISPs should be able to access BT’s fibre network through the “physical unbundling” of the nation’s communication lines.
Already Doing It
These calls come despite the fact that BT has already opened up its ducting (such as telegraph poles or the underground channels where fibre optic cable can be run) since February of this year. And BT of course already allows competitors access to its fibre network.
Indeed, according the FT, TalkTalk is set to take advantage of BT’s broadband investments by becoming the first ISP in the UK to purchase a fibre service from the telecoms giant. It is understood to be conducting trials with BT in order to see what the offering could do for its customers.
The chief executive (CEO) of TalkTalk, Charles Dunstone, told the Financial Times the company was “working on a commercial launch” for the service, which would allow the company to raise its speeds.
“This statement is reassuring in that Ofcom agrees that we have been providing suitable unbundled access to our fibre for some months now, that our product provides others with substantial control and that it will be the most likely way that fibre will be delivered in the future,” a BT spokesman told eWEEK Europe UK via email. “That recognition, combined with us having pricing freedom for that product, provides much of the regulatory clarity and certainty that we have been seeking.”
“While Ofcom has been conducting this consultation, BT has been hard at work with our fibre roll out,” the spokesman added. “More than two million premises now have access to fibre broadband and we are on track to pass four million premises by the end of this year. This is one of the fastest and most ambitious deployment plans in the world and so we are pleased that Ofcom is providing us with this level of regulatory clarity and certainty.”
BT is already committed to large-scale fibre rollout in the UK. At the end of last month, it revealed that it is spending at least £80 million to roll out super-fast broadband to up to 90 percent of homes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It is also rolling out fibre to other regions in a £2 billion plus fibre investment. That said however, it is hard in some rural locations for the UK carrier to justify the expense of a fibre deployment.