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Defence of the Dark Fibre Arts: Ofcom delays plans to force BT to open its network

None of the ISPs wanted the 'remedy'

Ofcom has delayed plans to force incumbent telco BT's Openreach to open up its dark fibre network. For now.

The UK comms regulator confirmed it will not attempt to reintroduce a temporary remedy for Dark Fibre Access, which would have required BT to provide a restricted form of DFA for Ethernet until March 2019.

Ofcom has long been pushing plans to hand competitors access to Openreach's dark fibre optic network, the unused parts of its infrastructure installed alongside currently used "lit" lines for future demand.

However, BT launched and won a legal challenge last year and the Competition Appeal Tribunal found that Ofcom had wrongly defined markets.

Following the judgement, the regulator consulted on proposals to introduce a restricted dark fibre remedy for leased line services at and below 1Gbps until March 2019 - a watered-down proposal of what it had previously proposed.

But apparently that wasn't to the liking of companies such as TalkTalk, Three, Vodafone (the ISPs most likely to purchase dark fibre), who told Ofcom higher bandwidths would be significantly more useful to them.

Meanwhile other telecoms providers said they would only use a dark fibre product that was restricted to lower bandwidths in very low volumes, because they were likely to need to upgrade to higher bandwidths within the next few years.

"We have therefore decided not to introduce the restricted dark fibre remedy for the period up to March 2019, but instead to consider the potential for a dark fibre remedy as part of our further market review," said Ofcom.

"We continue to believe dark fibre can play an important role in promoting competition in leased lines – supporting better broadband and mobile services," it said in a statement.

As a sop to the ISPs interested in its dark fibre, Openreach recently launched an Optical Spectrum Access (OSA) product: the OSA Filter Connect.

The feature is intended to allow ISPs to connect their own active equipment alongside Openreach-managed wavelengths, instead of the physical DFA product.

But Ofcom has said the OSA Filter Connect "is not a substitute" to its DFA proposal, since this method keeps Openreach in control of the endpoints of the system. ®

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