Ofcom set to force BT unit to support rival 5G services - Mobile World Live

Ofcom set to force BT unit to support rival 5G services

24 MAY 2019

UK regulator Ofcom laid out draft rules to widen access to the country’s fibre infrastructure, a move intended to improve the business case for investment in 5G and high-speed broadband.

The regulator’s proposals will increase access to infrastructure owned by BT unit Openreach, which includes the country’s underlying fibre backbone, telegraph poles, and underground tunnels and ducts.

Under current rules, Openreach is obliged to offer companies focused on small businesses or the residential sector access to assets in order to lay fibre cables, which can slash the cost of building networks in half.

The proposed regulations would extend this to companies laying fibre to support mobile networks in addition to businesses supplying larger corporate clients. Ofcom said it also planned to tighten regulation for leased lines, which forces Openreach to provide access to its fibre cables in specific areas at a set price.

A lack of access to fibre and other infrastructure to support mobile networks has been frequently referenced by BT’s domestic rivals O2, Vodafone and 3 as risking the country’s ambitious goals for 5G.

In a statement, Ofcom said: “Extending access to business networks would allow companies to use Openreach’s infrastructure for all telecoms services, improving the business case for them to invest in cutting-edge, full fibre and 5G networks.”

Missed opportunity
However, a Vodafone UK spokesperson told Mobile World Live the proposal did not go far enough.

“We support competition, but Ofcom’s proposals to grant access to dark fibre only on the fringes while loosening its price controls on BT Openreach will mean businesses and the public sector paying more to meet their connectivity needs,” the representative said.

“There is an alternative. Providing universal access to dark fibre now would give the UK the connectivity it needs, at a price everyone can afford. Sadly this is another opportunity Ofcom has missed to plug the full fibre hole in the UK.”

Ofcom’s draft decision will be submitted to EU regulators and, if approved, a final version will be published next month.

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Chris Donkin

Chris joined the Mobile World Live team in November 2016 having previously worked at a number of UK media outlets including Trinity Mirror, The Press Association and UK telecoms publication Mobile News. After spending 10 years in journalism, he moved...

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