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Enabling a super-fast broadband Britain

Fibre oneOfcom has unveiled new proposals to encourage the rollout of super-fast broadband across the UK.

Over the last four years Ofcom has been working to promote investment and competition in the next generation of fibre-based broadband.

This included launching an action plan 18 months ago designed to encourage telecoms firms to invest in installing fibre-optic technology.

Investment in new networks means super-fast broadband is now available to around 46 per cent of UK households.

Fibre networks

Today’s proposals are aimed at helping companies to compete to invest in these new networks.

Firstly, we’re proposing that BT’s fibre lines are opened up so that rival firms – such as Sky, TalkTalk and others- can provide their own services to consumers.

What is super-fast broadband?

fibre-nga-thumbWhile traditional broadband is delivered via copper telephone lines, super-fast broadband uses fibre optic cable.

With speeds up to ten times the level of today’s broadband services, super-fast broadband could enhance new consumer services such as broadcast quality video services, High Definition and 3D TV and interactive online gaming.

BT has already launched its super-fast broadband product and plans to cover 40% of the UK by 2012.

Virgin Media has also rolled out 50Mb/s to 46% of the UK population and has recently launched a 100Mb/s service. It’s also trialling the use of telegraph poles as a means of extending its 50Mbps offer to potentially another one million homes.

Other smaller companies are also investing in super-fast broadband including IFNL in Corby and Hampshire and H2O in Bournemouth and Dundee.

Click here for a look back at broadband over the past decade

BT would then be able to set prices for these new wholesale products to enable them to make a fair rate of return.

This arrangement would be similar to the way that BT’s copper telephone network was opened to rival phone and broadband services. Read more about this process.

Telegraph poles and ducts

Secondly, we’re proposing that BT offers other communications providers access to its underground ducts and overhead telegraph poles.

This would allow other communications providers to build their own fibre networks more cost effectively.

Ofcom’s Competition Partner Stuart McIntosh explains more about the proposals on the Today programme (1:22.44)

Today’s proposals also look at promoting further competition in current generation broadband.

Ofcom’s initial conclusion is that broadband competition is effective in large parts of the country and for over 70% of the population there will be no regulations applied.

Consumer protection

However, in the least competitive areas, where consumers only have access to copper-based broadband services from BT (around 14% of UK premises), Ofcom proposes some locally specific price controls to protect consumers against excessive prices.

Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards said: ‘Super-fast broadband is starting to be a reality in the UK, with very significant advances in recent months in the speeds some providers are offering.

‘Ofcom’s proposed regulations provide a framework for continued investment, to deliver further roll-out, competition and innovation for consumers.’

Click here for the consultation on access to BT’s network (Wholesale Local Access).

The consultation on competition in broadband (Wholesale Broadband Access).

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