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Ultrafast broadband measures set out by Ofcom

Measures to improve 'ultrafast broadband' coverage in the UK have been outlined by the UK's telecoms regulator.27 Feb 2018

Ofcom's plans are designed to encourage investment in 'full fibre' networks, which are capable of providing 'ultrafast' broadband services where download speeds of up to 1 Gbps are possible.

"Under the measures, BT must make its telegraph poles and underground tunnels open to rival providers, making it quicker and easier for them to build their own full-fibre networks," Ofcom said. "This will change the business case for building new networks and could cut the upfront costs of laying fibre cables by around 50%. It could also reduce the time required for digging works, meaning fibre could be installed in some streets in a matter of hours, where it would previously have taken days."

"In addition, Openreach, BT’s network division, will have to repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels so providers can access them. Openreach must also ensure there is space on its telegraph poles for extra fibre cables connecting homes to a competitor’s network. And it must release a ‘digital map’ of its duct and pole network, so competitors can plan where to lay fibre," it said.

Ofcom also confirmed that it would a cap on the amount Openreach can charge telecoms companies for its "basic superfast broadband service", and further imposed new targets on Openreach in respect of fitting new broadband lines and repairing faults.

Currently just 3% of the UK has access to ultrafast broadband services. Ofcom said it hoped that the implementation of the measures will improve coverage to 20% of the country by 2020.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s competition group director, said that full fibre networks will "underpin exciting technology like remote healthcare diagnostics, 5G mobile and connected devices".

Ofcom announced in December that it would bar BT from offering regionalised discounts on the prices it charges others to access its network in a bid to encourage competition in the market for ultrafast broadband services.