Back in February, Ofcom had made it known that BT's Openreach broadband network "must open up its network" to bring in competition and create more choices for customers. "Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices. This will help create more choice, while reducing the country’s reliance on Openreach," said Ofcom's digital communications review at that time.
The industry watchdog is now implementing plans to enable service providers to use BT's infrastructure to offer full fibre broadband services to consumers across the country. By using BT's infrastructure, companies will also be able to save costs and time to setup their networks and will be able to offer services at low costs. The move will also allow companies to develop alternatives to copper-based technologies being planned and implemented by BT.
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“Fibre is the future for broadband, and Ofcom is helping to deliver that through competition between networks. Today we’re explaining how access to BT’s tunnels and poles could be improved, allowing other providers to connect ultrafast, fibre broadband directly to UK homes and offices. Our plans will give providers increased confidence to invest in their own full-fibre networks at reduced cost,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom Competition Policy Director.
Ofcom's main focus towards enabling companies to offer advanced broadband services is to reduce people's dependence on Openreach and to spur 'continued investment in high quality, fibre networks.' On it's part, BT will be allowed to recover costs of providing access to it's poles and ducts, including for repairs, from every other company which uses it's infrastructure via service-level agreements and guarantees. Ofcom is also mulling placing caps on Openreach's pricing to ensure certainty in planning for other service providers in the future.
Ofcom's new plan includes allowing BT to upgrade copper drop-wires to fibre ones which can take greater load so that other service providers will be able to connect homes with nearest telegraph poles. Service providers will be asked to pay BT against use of such drop-wires. Ofcom also wants Openreach to provide a 'digital map' of the location of it's ducts and poles to service providers to ensure they can plan and deploy advanced networks.
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"Ofcom’s priority is for everyone to have good broadband. While the UK compares well with major European peers for access to superfast broadband, which offers speeds of 30 Mbit/s or more, many homes and small businesses still can’t receive a decent connection. So Ofcom is working with the Government on plans to give everyone the right to request a 10 Mbit/s service by 2020," said Ofcom.
While this should be great news for broadband customers, a major reform in the broadband industry was also introduced by the Advertising Standards Authority in May. The ASA then mandated broadband service providers to, from October 31, ensure that their advertised pricing plans reflect all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs as well as post-discount pricing along with line rental costs. The ASA felt that the existing approach towards broadband pricing confused and misled customers about the true cost of subscribing to such services.
A research conducted by ASA and Ofcom found that only 23 per cent of participants were able to correctly guess the monthly cost of a broadband contract after viewing an ad. An astounding 81 per cent couldn't calculate the total cost of a contract either and 74 per cent believed that information regarding ongoing costs after introductory periods were very unclear. From today onwards, that will not be the case.