New Ofcom rules aim to boost full fibre coverage

New Ofcom rules could take coverage of full fibre to UK homes from 3% today to up to 20% by 2020. The watchdog aims to boost full-fibre broadband by halving the upfront cost of building ultrafast broadband networks and forcing BT to make its telegraph poles and underground tunnels open to rival providers. This could cut the upfront costs of laying fibre cables by around 50%. It could also reduce the time required for digging works.

Openreach must provide a ‘digital map' of its duct and pole network so competitors can plan where to lay fibre.

Openreach will also need to repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels where necessary for providers to access them; and ensure there is space on its telegraph poles for extra fibre cables connecting homes to a competitor's network.

Ofcom has also introduced measures to ensure affordable access to superfast broadband for people and businesses in the future, protecting against high prices by cutting the wholesale price that Openreach can charge telecoms companies for its basic superfast broadband service.

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."

Commenting on the package of measures from Ofcom to boost full-fibre connectivity, Chris Richards, Head of Business Environment Policy at EEF, said: "Today's announcement from Ofcom that Openreach will have to give access to ducts and poles to competitors to improve full-fibre digital connectivity will be welcome news for households, but continues the trend of relegating business need and benefits to being just an afterthought.

"This helps to explain why after over a 90% rollout of superfast broadband across the UK, 16% of small businesses still do not have superfast access compared to 9% of premises as a whole.

"Ministers need to take charge and ensure the recently created Business Connectivity Forum delivers tangible progress on full-fibre rollout to businesses as a priority, otherwise in five years the UK may find itself the best place to watch Netflix at home, but the worst place for businesses to take advantage of the 4th industrial revolution with all the productivity benefits that offers."