Ofcom drafts rules to speed up roll-out of superfast fibre broadband

A woman talks on her phone as she passes a branded sign displayed outside of a BT building in London

However, it is only available to just 3% of United Kingdom homes and offices.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom's competition group director, said of the draft plans: '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 United Kingdom'.

It also called on BT to make telegraph poles and underground tunnels more easily available to rivals.

TalkTalk, which uses the Openreach network, said it was good news for consumers, competition and investment.

However, Ofcom said it will roll out new stricter rules forcing BT's infrastructure arm to "repair faults and install new broadband lines more quickly".

It estimated that sharing infrastructure would halve the cost of connecting a home to full fibre - from £500 to £250.

The regulator said Openreach would have to fix faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels on its own dime, ensure there was space on its poles for extra cables, and make more progress on releasing a digital map of its network - a process it began 12 months ago.

Vodafone Group PLC (LON:VOD) is investing in its own full fibre network in partnership with CityFibreand plans to connect one million homes by 2021.

It added that telecoms firms needed to "be certain they can secure a return on their investment" if a nationwide rollout of full fibre was to be realised.

However, it decided not to regulate the prices of Openreach's fastest wholesale superfast broadband products to incentivise operators to build full-fibre networks.


And to prevent BT from stifling new investment by rivals, BT will not be allowed to make targeted wholesale price reductions in areas where rivals are starting to build new networks.

At the same time, Ofcom said it wanted to ensure affordable access to superfast broadband for all people and businesses, and protect against high prices - particularly in places that were unlikely to benefit from competitive investment, such as rural areas.

"Ofcom's move not only protects customers in today's market, but also ensures Openreach and others are encouraged to invest in the full fiber networks of tomorrow", a spokesman said.

Ofcom has slashed the price BT's Openreach can charge operators for superfast broadband, in a package of measures BT said will hit its bottom line to the tune of £120m next year. After consulting on the matter, this is to be increased to £11.92.

The draft measures have been submitted to the European Commission for comment, though that will be followed by a final statement on the decision by Ofcom next month. Since it put these forward, strong momentum has built towards full-fibre broadband in the UK.

This measure, which is already being used by providers such as Virgin Media and CityFibre, will fundamentally change the business case for building new networks.

And earlier this month TalkTalk announced that it intends to build a full fibre to the premise (FTTP) network to some 3 million homes and businesses in the UK. In particular its recommendations for supporting investment in full-fibre network build by limiting the lowering prices on the 40Mbps FTTC [fibre-to-the-cabinet] product.

KCOM to have full-fibre coverage across all of its network by March 2019, covering 200,000 premises in the Hull area.

Ofcom also notes recent FTTP announcements (from Openreach, TalkTalk, CityFibre and Vodafone, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear) which could take United Kingdom full-fibre coverage from 3% today to 20% by 2020. The measures are created to help deliver this and promote further investment beyond these ambitions. It also has to complete at least 97 percent of repairs within seven working days.

Openreach has to complete at least 88 percent of fault repairs within one or two working days of being notified, up from 80 percent now.

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