Network Rail Could Offer Wholesale Fibre Services To Telecoms

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Network Rail applies to Ofcom for powers that would allow it to extend its fibre infrastructure

Network Rail has applied to Ofcom for powers that would easily allow the UK’s railway infrastructure operator to extend its fibre network so it can offer wholesale services to other telecoms providers.

The FTNx fibre network, which runs alongside the UK’s railways, is currently used to carry a range of voice, video and data traffic for rail operators and it is planned that the infrastructure will be used to boost mobile coverage on major routes, as outlined by the government last year.

However, Network Rail also wants to make FTNx available to other telecoms and has requested ‘code’ powers under the electronic communications code that would remove a lot of the red tape associated with deploying fibre beyond the railways.

Kings Cross Railway StationCode powers would allow it to maintain network infrastructure on public land without a licence, provide immunity from certain planning laws and allow it to to apply for a court order to obtain rights to work on private land if an agreement cannot be reached with the owner.

Network Rail fibre

A number of other broadband providers have such powers and Ofcom has proposed that Network Rail be afforded similar privileges as it would help improve access and choice to superfast broadband, particularly in rural areas.

Without code powers, the regulator says, the process of acquiring separate planning permissions would be a difficult, lengthy and potentially costly endeavour for Network Rail.

“The Applicant has confirmed that it intends that its electronic communications network and system of conduits will be used to improve mobile connectivity along the rail corridor and that it will offer wholesale services to other telecom operators,” says Ofcom.

“It has explained that its planned network expansion would enable it to deliver and operate a high speed, high capacity national electronic fibre optical network infrastructure to transmit a variety of network and IP services to new geographic areas outside of its existing network footprint. Due to the coverage of the Applicant’s network, it has explained that this will serve to benefit the public as a whole as it is likely to increase competition in the provision of various broadband and telecom services in the future.

“For these reasons, Ofcom considers that granting the Applicant Code powers would benefit the public.”

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