Ofcom promises to have details on duct and pole access by summer

Just waiting on European directive, assuming no Brexit

The communications regulator Ofcom has promised to release more details on how it intends to give BT's competitors greater access to Openreach's poles and ducts by the summer.

The details follow Ofcom's decision in February in the once-in-a-decade Digital Communications Review to open up BT's network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to rivals so competitors can connect fibre to homes and offices.

Speaking before MPs today, Ofcom head Sharon White said greater network access to Openreach would improve competition and reduce the country's reliance on one single dominant supplier. Such a move ought to improve the number of fibre-to-the-premise connections, she said.

Key to that is the issue of pricing, with competitors having previously complained that current network access is too expensive. White also said the issue of clunky processes currently preventing take-up need to be addressed - for example competitors having to resubmit paperwork if they find a blockage.

The regulator said it is holding off until the EU's Civil Infrastructure Directive comes into force this summer, which is intended to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications network.

White said: “We will ensure there is clear guidance in there about how others can come in and access the ducts and poles.”

On the subject as to whether a full separation of Openreach from BT will go ahead, White said that is very much still a "live option".

She said by summer the regulator would make it publicly known how far it had got in deciding a separation proposal. She declined from giving a time frame as to when that will be finalised but said "I want this to be resolved as quickly as possible."

She said: "The discussion [with BT] has been constructive, but it is too early to say if we will reach a [voluntary] agreement."

Ofcom recently revealed draft plans of its proposals for both greater separation of Openreach and BT, and more access to its network will not be available until the end of the year. ®

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