BT are investigating ways which would allow it to share cabling ducts with rival companies according to a report in the FT. This would allow other network operators to cheaply build networks without having to dig up the roads, which is both costly and disruptive, and could allow other operators to deploy their own fibre-to-the-home solutions, expanding to areas which BT deem unviable.
The announcement follows news last month from the Conservative party who pledged to force BT to open up its ducts for sharing, although BT have been in talks since last year with Ofcom about this.
"We told Ofcom last year we're willing to provide open access to our ducts . . . and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Although it's unlikely to be the silver bullet to get fibre to every home, open access to all ducts, not just ours, might help BT and others extend coverage and so we would like to see a future government support such a move."Ian Livingston, (CEO) BT
Duct sharing would open up interesting opportunities for other network operators. Virgin Media have done little to expand their broadband network since it was originally built and conglomerated, and with access to new ducting, they could expand to further parts of the country at a much lower cost than the original cost of having to dig. Of course, whilst BT may be willing to share ducts, there may be problems in some areas where cabling ducts are already full, and therefore sharing is not possible.
Other large operators are keen to get their own high-speed broadband services live. Duct sharing could give them the opportunity to do this, and could also add extra competition at a wholesale level. BT currently have a huge market hold due to their coverage of the country, but with other operators able to expand to a similar area, it could boost competition in rural areas. There could also be opportunities other than duct sharing. Virgin have a network that covers around 57% of homes, and a wholesale model similar to that of BT's could allow other operators to start marketing faster services. The Virgin network has one big advantage over that of BT, it can potentially support speeds up to 200Mbps to the home; however Virgin have previously been adamant on having no plans to open up their network to the wholesale market.