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21 April 2017
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The UK regulator, Ofcom, has set out its plans to make BT open up its ducts and poles to competing operators – and has given the industry until 15 June to comment.
BT’s last-mile wholesale network subsidiary, Openreach, will have to adopt the new
rules from 1 April 2018, said Ofcom. "We are also considering
changes to Openreach’s rental charges for
accessing its duct network, and we expect to publish specific
proposals on this in the summer," added the regulator.
Ofcom said its aim is to provide access to BT’s
ducts and poles on fair terms, with the cost shared across all
users. The main purpose it to provide broadband connections to
homes and small businesses, but competitive operators will be
able to connect large enterprises if the fibres are mixed
BT will be obliged to ensure ducts are accessible and that
poles will have enough capacity, said Ofcom.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s competition policy
director, said: "People increasingly need fast, reliable
broadband. We’ll make it easier for companies to
offer their own full-fibre broadband more cheaply by accessing
Openreach’s tunnels and telegraph poles. This will
put other providers on a level playing field with BT, so they
have the confidence to invest in their own full-fibre
Ofcom said it remained "concerned that the UK has very low
coverage of full-fibre broadband, where cable and fibre lines
connect directly to homes and offices".
Competitors have complained in the past that BT has charged
high prices for surveys to check whether there is capacity on
poles or ducts – and then made similar charges again
days later for new surveys on the same infrastructure.
Ofcom said that "Openreach has made the process for accessing
its ducts and poles more efficient, following a trial last year
with five other telecoms companies. Other providers now carry
out their own work on the infrastructure, which has helped
But there is more work to be done, said the regulator.
Openreach has not only to repair faulty infrastructure within
an agreed timeframe to make it accessible, but it also has to
make an existing digital map of the network easier to use by
The full consultation is available from Ofcom online.