Ofcom publishes consultation on opening up BT’s infrastructure
Following the launch of its consultations on the review of the wholesale local access (WLA) market, Ofcom published today detailed plans to improve access to Openreach’s underground ducts and poles (known as PIA – Physical Infrastructure Access) to competing providers of fibre broadband. The proposed measures are designed to boost investment in the next generation of ultrafast broadband and allow competitors to use existing infrastructure to build their own fibre networks at scale.
This consultation builds on the 2016 PIA consultation which outlined Ofcom’s views on what Openreach’s PIA could be used for, how it should work and how charges could be set. It also takes into consideration the amended PIA product which Openreach trialled with five providers in 2016 and implemented from January 2017. The detailed proposals published today include:
- Access to BT’s ducts and poles – A network access obligation that requires Openreach to ensure that other providers can deploy their own networks and that the existing infrastructure is “ready for use???, repairing faults when necessary
- Enabling greater flexibility in the use of ducts and poles – to allow telecoms providers to deploy local access networks for broadband and non-broadband services provided the purpose of the network deployment is primarily the delivery of broadband services
- Access on equivalent terms to ensure a level playing field – to allow other providers to access infrastructure on fair terms with Ofcom imposing a “no undue discrimination??? requirement on BT (strict equivalence in respect of all processes and sub-products that contribute to the supply and consumption of duct access and equivalence on how costs are recovered)
- Access to digital maps to support large-scale network planning – Openreach has launched at the end of January 2017 a new digital map which other telecom providers can access to know the exact location of ducts, poles and chambers and the duct capacity. Ofcom welcomed BT’s plans to continue updating the tool with additional functionalities
- Process to ensure efficient network deployment – requiring BT to publish a Reference Offer for PIA, setting out terms and conditions and how operational processes will work. BT would also be required to ensure capacity is available on its poles for additional fibre cables that connect individual homes to a competitor’s network.
- Pricing to support competitive investment – PIA rental charges would be capped on the basis on the current calculation methodology used (to be reviewed in summer 2017). Regarding ancillary charges, specific pricing obligation will be imposed in particular for build and enabling works, with the associated costs to be recovered from all users of the infrastructure subject to limits.
The proposals form part of Ofcom’s review of the wholesale local access market for the period April 2018 and March 2021. The consultation closes on the 15th of June 2017 and new rules effective from the 1st of April 2018.