Ofcom drafts new rules to promote fibre investment

Ofcom offices at Riverside House in LondonImage: Ofcom offices at Riverside House in London. Photo: courtesy of Jim Linwood/Wikipedia.org.

The UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) said that it has drafted a set of new rules aimed at supporting fibre investment by enabling rival companies better access to Openreach’s infrastructure.

The regulator said that firms involved in laying high-speed fibre cables for broadband and mobile networks will benefit from greater access to the telegraph poles and underground tunnels of Openreach under the new rules proposed by it.

Under rules set by Ofcom in 2018, Openreach, which maintains the main broadband network in the UK, is already obligated to allow rival firms to use its telegraph poles and underground ‘ducts’ to lay their own fibre networks.

The rule introduced in 2018 can reduce the upfront cost of building full-fibre networks by nearly half and is available to firms which provide services to residential and small-business customers. The regulator’s draft decision would extend the rule to companies catering to large businesses, and also to firms laying high-speed lines to support broadband and mobile networks.

According to Ofcom, Virgin Media, CityFibre, and TalkTalk are among the companies that have been using Openreach’s ducts and poles to connect several homes and businesses to faster, more reliable broadband. Between them, competing service providers are utilising nearly 12,000 Openreach’s telegraph poles and also 2,500km of underground duct.

The new rule, which will extend access to business networks, will enable companies to use the infrastructure of Openreach for all telecoms services, thereby encouraging them to invest in the latest, full-fibre and 5G networks, said Ofcom.

The regulator said that under its draft decision, it will continue to regulate what Openreach can charge providers to use its services in order to keep prices flat in areas where it has limited competition from other leased-line networks.

There would also be strict requirements imposed on Openreach for repairs and installations, to make sure that high service standards are provided, said the regulator.

Ofcom competition group director Jonathan Oxley said: “The amount of internet data used by people in the UK is expanding by around half every year. So, we’ll need faster, more reliable connections for our homes, offices and mobile networks.

“Our measures are designed to support the UK’s digital future by providing investment certainty for continued competitive investment in fibre and 5G networks across the country.”

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