BT has been ordered to share access to ducts and telegraph poles with competitors who want to build their own faster broadband infrastructure.
The Ofcom ruling means Sky, TalkTalk and other big rivals could cheaply deploy their own fibre optics between local exchanges and premises, providing more intense competition.
It follows two surveys of the national telecoms network, which found that up to 50 per cent of ducts and poles throughout have spare capacity for more cables.
"Availability is highly variable across the country and the practicalities of using BT's ducts and poles have yet to be worked through," Ofcom cautioned.
Also today, in a long-expected ruling, Ofcom said that the fibre optic lines BT is itself installing must be available to competitors to unbundle, as with the current generation of copper wires. Unlike under current local loop unbundling regulations, BT will have full control over pricing, "to encourage investment".
"We believe there will be no detriment to consumers as BT's [unbundled fibre] prices will be constrained by the wider competitiveness of the broadband market," Ofcom said.
BT has so far announced fibre-to-the-cabinet and fibre-to-the-premises upgrades that will cover 40 per cent of its network - about 10 million homes and businesses - by mid-2012. It has also said it believes it is commercially viable to improve internet access for about two thirds of the country, and called for government help to go further.
Finally, Ofcom announced more price controls imposed on the existing broadband market. Where BT has a wholesale monopoly, new caps will be imposed when BT's voluntary caps run out. Where there are two or three wholesale providers, BT will have more freedom to set prices, but will be obliged to base them on transparent costing.
There regulatory documents relating to Ofcom's rulings are here. ®