Broadband News

Coming soon to a pole or duct near you competition for ultrafast broadband

Ofcom has a two pronged approach to dealing with BT Openreach at present, there is the on-going battle of how far to split Openreach away from BT Group with everyone trying to avoid an expensive protracted legal battle and the second is the Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product, or more correctly version 2 of the PIA product as several smaller operators are already using the first version.

Ofcom has announced another consultation on its plans for PIA 2 where the eventual hope is that by making duct and pole access attractive to BT competitors they will make use of it to deploy millions of ultrafast pure fibre connections.

"In July, Ofcom detailed a new strategy to promote large-scale roll-out of ultrafast broadband, based on cable and fibre lines that go all the way to people’s doorsteps. This would provide an alternative to the mostly copper-based technologies currently being planned by BT, and deliver benefits to people and businesses in terms of choice, innovation and affordable prices.

Ofcom believes network competition is the most effective spur for continued investment in high quality, fibre networks. This will also reduce the country’s reliance on Openreach, the network division of BT.

The proposals include changes that mean BT would recover the costs of providing third-party access, such as repairing ducts, in the same way it recovers these costs for its own deployments – for example, by spreading them across all services that make use of the duct.

So Ofcom is consulting on whether to require Openreach to upgrade its drop wires with fibre at the request of any telecoms provider who is offering full-fibre broadband to a customer. Openreach could then charge the provider for using the drop wire.

Ofcom on new proposals

It could be said that after a decade of Ofcom sanctioned copper based local loop unbundling the regulator is now trying to get up to speed on getting pure fibre access out to more premises. One interesting snippet is that they seem happy with both coax (called cabled in Ofcom docs) or pure fibre.

One important consideration that Ofcom is seeking input on, is that competitors are asking for a relaxation on the usage rules so that more expensive leased line products can utilise PIA, current rules mean only consumer or SME grade services are allowed. Relaxing this rule would allow the deployment of higher profit margin leased lines which either form the cherry on top of the cake for deploying millions of FTTH lines or form the underlying core revenue with FTTH as the marginal revenue increase on top.

It is going to be interesting to see what happens in the next decade, if PIA 2 works then an independent Openreach might morph into a duct and pole maintenance operation with a gracefully degrading copper network and invest very little in its own pure fibre services. In other words the days of active hardware like VDSL2 and and their own pure fibre products might only be needed in the less commercially attractive areas, so we might see 80% of the UK served by others, and Openreach picking up the USO type business elsewhere.

If time travel existed we'd request that Ofcom borrowed the machine and re-started its current pure fibre focus around 2007, i.e. just after demand for broadband started to rocket due to the low price bundles from TalkTalk.


PIA leased lines - anchor for rural build or opportunity to cherry-pick existing?

  • Gadget
  • about 1 year ago

Cherry picking mostly I'd imagine.

  • AndrueC
  • about 1 year ago

Is the issue not more resource than remedies?

Alt-nets appear to be chasing the same contractors.

Ofcom have yet to quantify their new found ambition for FTTP, no reference to sunset dates for PST. Some context is needed. You would hope the cost recovery for WLA is framed to encourage the rate of transition desired.

  • ValueforMoney
  • about 1 year ago

If time travel existed I'd request that Ofcom borrowed the machine and re-started its current pure fibre focus around 2000 ie when Oftel reinforced it's ban on BT using FTTP to deliver TV and data, thereby (forced)routing BT down the copper (ADSL) route for the next 14 years.

  • jumpmum
  • about 1 year ago

"Posted by jumpmum 43 minutes ago
If time travel existed I'd request that Ofcom borrowed the machine and re-started its current pure fibre focus around 2000 ie when Oftel reinforced it's ban on BT using FTTP to deliver TV and data, thereby (forced)routing BT down the copper (ADSL) route for the next 14 years."
100% Agree! As much as BT are the modern baddies in holding back investment, they were the victims back in 2000. I can't help but think there may have been a private meeting between Sky executives and Tony Blair at that time

  • markybaby76
  • about 1 year ago

Eitherway, yet again it will be the rural or less densly populated areas that suffer. 90% of Uk get gigabit, 10% will still be on adsl on outdated none upgraded exchanges.
In fairness to OR though, they themselves need a clear idea of where their future lies and ideally a clear remit to upgrade existing equipment

  • ukwoody
  • about 1 year ago

So nothing for rural asdl users fed from cable thrown in the ditch, except where its hung over wall.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 year ago

I'm sure Ofcom merely overlooked rules on ditch-sharing.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago


So get gigaclear to do the same then - just use the same ditch!

  • ZenUser27
  • about 1 year ago

why cant OFCOM look at and learn from others mistakes.
A bus company used to run a service that covered the whole country. When they lost the monopoly and any one was allowed to run a bus route the new companies only ran the most profitable routes so the less profitable routes stopped. So now large parts of rural Britain are without a bus.
VM only cable densely populated areas, and if others are allowed to lay cable in BT ducts and poles they will cherry pick the most profitable areas just like all the bus companies.

  • t99del
  • about 1 year ago

they had the option ton PIA for the last 3 /4 years I think

  • fastman
  • about 1 year ago

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