Ofcom details plans for full fibre broadband

ByKim Staples
Colourful fibre optics

Ofcom is about to launch a consultation looking into how the UK can build full fibre, ultrafast broadband connections for as many households as possible.

It wants broadband providers to have greater access to BT's Openreach network - in particular, the 'poles and ducts' that it uses to deliver services. This refers to the telegraph poles and underground tunnels that carry cables, which BT has the vast majority of control over.

By opening up access, however, more providers will be able to install their own equipment in more places. The consultation will look into how this can be achieved.

Ofcom says it wants to "ensure that all providers can lay fibre in BT's ducts as easily as BT itself" - which would mean better competition, more chances for areas to get ultrafast connections, and greater flexibility. Neighbourhoods wouldn't be reliant on just BT to get fibre broadband installed; instead they'd have more choice of providers to turn to.

Still, BT won't be devoid of responsibility under the new plans. Ofcom wants the company to continue maintaining the ducts, repairing its equipment, and carrying out certain engineering work.

Ultimately, the regulator wants this to lead to more 'fibre-to-the-premises' (FTTP) connections - in which the entire line is fibre optic, right from the exchange to your home. The UK is falling behind here, it says, with coverage of just 2%. 'Fibre-to-the-cabinet' (FTTC) broadband is much more common here, with coverage around the 90% mark, but it can't reach speeds nearly as fast as FTTP.

The consultation opened yesterday and closes on 31 January 2017.

Source: Ofcom

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