Ofcom release action plan for super-fast broadband
Ofcom have today announced an action plan that encourages investment and competition to help deliver next generation access (NGA) to homes and businesses in the UK. Ofcom will ensure that measures are in place to protect consumers ensuring continued availability of services and to allow a seamless move from copper to new fibre networks.
One of the main ways Ofcom plans to encourage investment and competition is to provide certainty on the regulatory environment that will exist so any providers planning on providing NGA will know exactly where they stand from the offset. The five main areas to address this that are proposed for consultation are:
- developing clear standards for wholesale products, thereby allowing communications providers to compete and innovate in the super-fast broadband market;
- allowing pricing freedom where there is effective competition, giving companies the flexibility to price services that reflect investment risk and generate a return on investment;
- understanding the scope for competition based on access to existing telecoms infrastructure, building on the success of local loop unbundling;
- facilitating transition by ensuring the smooth and timely move from traditional copper to fibre networks for both industry and consumers as services take off; and
- communicating the next steps for Ofcom: how we will work with other interested parties including industry, the UK Government and the European Commission.
Ofcom have recognised that there is not a single solution to providing next generation access. Whilst everyone would prefer fibre was deployed to every home in a full fibre to the home (FTTH) roll out, this is not economical and other technologies such as WiMax and LTE (when it is out of development) need to be deployed to fill in the gaps to ensure that everyone has access to some form of fast broadband.
There is also value in public sector backing such that we have seen already in both Wales and Scotland where the governments have encouraged and aided investment to provide access to those areas where BT had originally deemed it not commercially viable to deploy ADSL services. Similar things also happen abroad, particularly in America with municipalities encouraging FTTH by making it easier for the companies to deploy fibre there and therefore encouraging local business growth, working from home and attracting home buyers.
Another major point covered by the consultation is a re-iteration of the new build fibre policy which requires replication of existing regulatory products and uninterrupted access to the emergency services. Ofcom envisage that both active (shared termination equipment at exchange between wholesale providers) and passive (dedicated termination equipment) wholesale services will need to be provided, as well as ensuring capacity is available in ducts for further deployments of fibre should it be needed to aid competition.
To try and get as much feedback on next generation broadband as possible, Ofcom have created a superfast-broadband blog which allows end users and companies alike to comment on the article, and you can also respond interactively with in-line comments to the Executive Summary as well as the usual formal consultation response process which ends on 2nd December.