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Ofcom pushes for fibre broadband in new-build properties

Antony Savvas

The communications regulator Ofcom has published proposals to promote next-generation fibre broadband networks for new housing and office developments.

In an apparent change of direction, Ofcom's proposals seek to encourage investment in super-fast broadband with speeds up to 100mbps, while promoting competition in providing the services.

The proposed regulations are designed to provide investors with certainty over how the networks will be regulated.

They will ensure all communications providers interested in delivering high-speed broadband have equal opportunities to invest in telecoms infrastructure for new-build properties.

In 2007, the government announced a target of 3m new-build homes by 2020. It is estimated that around 246,000 new residential and business premises are built each year.

A number of new-build developments are already being fitted with fibre-based networks, including Ebbsfleet in Kent, where the owners will move in this summer.

The UK's move to next-generation fibre-based telecoms networks is one of the most fundamental changes in telecoms infrastructure since the development of broadband, said Ofcom, although the UK government does not have an official fibre communications strategy, unlike other countries.

Many businesses are interested in providing fibre networks to new-build developments, including property developers, utility companies and telecoms companies, Ofcom said.

Ofcom's proposals are designed to safeguard levels of competition and consumer protection for next-generation fibre-based products that currently apply to copper-based networks today.

The proposals are designed to:

° Provide regulatory clarity and equal treatment of communications providers whiet ensuring flexibility during the roll-out of fibre-based products

° Encourage investment by standardising wholesale telecoms products to make the deployment of fibre-based products attractive to property developers

° Ensure consumer protection measures are in place for properties with these networks, such as uninterrupted battery back-up to guarantee access to emergency calls in the event of a power failure

Ofcom is also encouraging communications providers, property developers and the utilities industries to work together to develop standards. These would be intended to guide the commercial success of next-generation broadband to new-build homes and businesses.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said, "Super-fast broadband is ripe for deployment in new-build areas. We need to take advantage of this and encourage investment in networks, while promoting competition.

"This will allow consumers to benefit from all the advantages of super-fast access speeds, competitive provision and choice."





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