Ofcom: Openreach must do more on duct and pole access

Ofcom releases more detailed proposals to enable CSPs to access Openreach’s national network infrastructure for fibre broadband roll out

Openreach has done solid work in making it easier for other communications services providers (CSPs) to access its duct and pole infrastructure to roll out fibre broadband services, but much more work needs to be done to ensure the national network infrastructure is ready for use, according to Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator recently published more detailed plans for improving access to Openreach’s ducts and poles as part of its review of the wholesale network access market, with the intention of spurring other CSPs to invest in ultrafast broadband and reduce dependence on Openreach, which is currently in the process of legally splitting from parent BT.

“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,” said Ofcom competition policy director, Yih-Choung Teh.

“This will put other providers on a level playing field with BT, so they have the confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks,” added Teh.

In 2016, Openreach began to trial processes for duct and pole sharing with five CSPs. Meanwhile, in December 2016, Ofcom announced a number of proposals around covering the cost of fibre roll out and conducting site surveys. Since then, Openreach has launched a digital mapping tool to aid CSPs in the planning process.

Ofcom’s updated proposals will cover how BT recovers incidental related costs of letting other CSPs lay fibre in its ducts – such as those associated with repairing damaged ducts – in the same way it recovers costs for its down deployments, by spreading them across all the services making use of the duct.

It has also suggested that CSPs should be allowed to use the Openreach infrastructure to provide business leased line services, which can help fund their own fibre deployment and strengthen the business case for doing so.

Finally, Ofcom has suggested that Openreach must ensure that there is sufficient capacity on its poles for CSPs to add dropwire fibre connections into individual premises, which had been flagged as a problem. The latest consultation will run until Thursday 15 June 2017.

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Cable consumer telecoms analyst Dan Howdle said it was unlikely that BT’s main competitors would rely on the Openreach infrastructure to launch their own nationwide networks on cost grounds, improved access would benefit smaller, local CSPs.

“Smaller local providers tend to provide a better service to customers due both to the number of, and proximity to, their customers,” said Howdle.

“Whichever way you look at it, Ofcom’s move will further stoke the fires of competition, which in turn will lead to more choice, cheaper broadband deals and better customer service.”

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