Ofcom offers rules to encourage UK fiber to the home deployments

Ofcom, the UK's telecommunications regulatory authority, today issued a draft set of rules designed to encourage the deployment of fiber to the home (FTTH) infrastructure. The regulatory agency focused most of its attention on Openreach, BT's access network business unit, with an eye toward increasing competition and improving the business case for alternative operators to build their own FTTH networks.

Ofcom, the UK's telecommunications regulatory authority, today issued a draft set of rules designed to encourage the deployment of fiber to the home (FTTH) infrastructure. The regulatory agency focused most of its attention on Openreach, BT's access network business unit, with an eye toward increasing competition and improving the business case for alternative operators to build their own FTTH networks.

The new rules call for BT and Openreach to:

  • improve access to telegraph poles and underground tunnels for fiber deployment. This includes the rapid repair of faulty infrastructure and the clearing of blocked tunnels. Openreach also must release a "digital map" of its duct and pole network to aid the planning of alternative FTTH network deployments.
  • reduce the price Openreach charges competitive operators for its basic superfast broadband service.

Ofcom believes the first set of rules could decrease the cost for alternative carriers to deploy new FTTH networks by approximately 50%. The time to build such fiber-optic networks should decrease significantly too, Ofcom asserts. The repair rules contain a number of elements:

  • Openreach must complete at least 88% of fault repairs within one or two working days of being notified (up from 80% currently)
  • It must complete at least 97% of repairs within seven working days
  • It must provide an appointment for 90% of new line installations within 10 working days of being notified (compared to today's 80% within 12 days)
  • It must install 95% of connections on the date agreed between Openreach and the telecom provider (up from 90% currently).

BT and Openreach would have to meet the new requirements by 2020/21. Ofcom has established milestones the companies must reach in the interim. The rules have been submitted to the European Commission for comment before implementation.

Ofcom's action comes after the UK again failed to reach the minimum 1% of subscribers served to be included in the FTTH Council Europe's most recent FTTH penetration list (see "European FTTH/FTTB subscriber numbers jump 20.4%: IDATE"). Ofcom estimates that 3% of UK homes and businesses have access to "all fiber" networks. The new rules, alongside already announced FTTH deployment plans by such alternative operators as CityFibre and Hyperoptic, as well as cable operator Virgin Media, among others, could increase this figure to 20% by 2020.

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