BT presses ahead with Ofcom demand to make it easier for other providers to access Openreach’s ducts and poles to lay their own fibre cables
BT Openreach is holding a trial with five independent communications providers (CPs) to see how it can offer easier access to its ducts and poles.
The company has offered access to this network infrastructure since 2011, but Ofcom’s recent once-in-a-decade review of the UK communications market called for the company to make changes, such as the establishment of a database, so third party providers would be more encouraged to lay their own fibre.
The idea is that network-level competition will help challenge Openreach’s wholesale dominance.
Openreach ducts and poles
The trials will see how third parties can inspect ducts and poles to see if there is space to install fibre cables, remove blockages and install equipment without additional permission. The pilots are already the biggest use of Openreach’s ducts and poles access service to date.
“Our ducts and poles have been open to these companies for several years, and Ofcom has been clear that the price to access them is in line with international comparisons, but they haven’t been used on a large scale to date,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley.
“We hope that these new, simpler processes – which have been designed and developed in partnership with the industry – will encourage more companies to invest, particularly in parts of the UK that aren’t already served by high-speed networks.”
“We have been using Openreach’s duct and pole access since 2011, and consider ourselves experts in this area,” added Andy Cornibere, managing director of Callflow, one of the participants in the trial. “These trials mean we can build significant superfast and ultrafast networks quicker and cheaper, and can potentially make a massive difference to spreading fibre broadband to the most difficult to reach areas.”
Network level competition
Selley has previously admitted that BT’s database for its network infrastructure is “far from perfect” and Openreach is working on a separate project to correct this.
The ducts and poles access measures outlined by Ofcom in its review are seen as a way of encouraging network level competition without necessarily splitting up Openreach and BT – although this course of action has not been ruled out.
CityFibre, which has ambitions to challenge Openreach, has previously told TechWeekEurope it is looking into the possibility of taking advantage.
“We’re certainly evaluating it,” said Mark Collins, director of strategy and public affairs at CityFibre
“We’ve taken a view to date of owning our own infrastructure. Building the types of network we do in BT’s infrastructure is going to be complex.
“If that is to be usable, there needs to be more transparent data available and a listing of usage restrictions. For it to be workable, we need unfettered access so it’s if we had our own [cable]”
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