Ofcom fibre proposals put BT ducts in frame

British Telecom’s UK fibre lines and network ducts would be open to competitors to boost deployment of super-fast broadband services in the country, under new Ofcom proposals revealed today.
The regulator would let BT set the wholesale price for services sold to rival carriers, but would require the incumbent to offer free access to its underground ducts and overhead telegraph poles to allow competitors to install their own fibre networks.
BT would have to outline how it will open up its ducts within three months of a concluding statement on the proposals, which Ofcom expects to issue in the autumn.
The proposals were made after Ofcom found spare space in BT’s duct network in surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009.
It estimates some parts of BTs network have space to handle 50% more cabling, with similar capacity available in ducts located close to homes and businesses.
The regulator would introduce localised price controls in parts of the UK it deems to have the least choice in broadband services at present. It says up to 14% of UK homes currently only have one choice of broadband provider.
Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, says the proposals are designed to promote competition in the super-fast broadband market.
“Ofcom’s proposed regulatory framework is intended to support the next phase of development, by promoting investment, competition, and innovation,” Richards states.
The move could be a blow to BT’s ambitions to use wholesale prices to recoup its £1.5 billion (€1.6 billion) investment in the fibre network, by allowing competitors to bypass the telco and install their own networks, the Financial Times reports.