Ofcom looking to boost full fibre with new rulesSarah Shepherd
Ofcom today announced new rules that aim to increase investment in full fibre by reducing the upfront costs that building the broadband network entail.
By forcing BT to make its telegraph poles and underground tunnels available to communications providers, Ofcom estimates that the cost of laying fibre cables could be reduced by 50%.
In addition, Openreach would be forced to repair any faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels to allow for better access, and ensure that there is space on the telegraph poles for extra fibre cables. Finally, Openreach is to make available a ‘digital map’ of its duct and pole network to enable better planning on fibre deployment.
Ofcom announced that it would also be imposing price regulation on how much Openreach can charge telecom companies accessing its basic superfast broadband service. The cap would be set at £11.92, a 6% increase on the amount Ofcom proposed last year.
These cost savings are intended to enable rival providers to increase their customer base and provide benefit to consumers with cheaper superfast broadband. This also benefits BDUK areas given that the clawback mechanism is based on take-up. However, there are concerns that Ofcom risks undermining the delicate business case and push for full fibre investment by continuing to pursue price decreases on superfast.
Nevertheless, Ofcom believes that these measures could see an upward swing in fibre roll out from the current 3% coverage in the UK to around 20% over the next 2 years.
Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, said: “The measures we’ve set out today will support the growing number of companies who have already announced plans to build full-fibre networks and open the way for even more ambitious investment around the UK”.
Finally, recognising that the move to full fibre will be a gradual process for customers, Ofcom has set out a series of requirements on Openreach to ensure that new line installation and fault fixing will be expedited, with interim service improvement targets for Openreach set along the way.