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Ofcom outlines plans to up fibre broadband investment

Ofcom has outlined a range of measures designed to increase investment in full-fibre broadband in the UK.

The UK broadcast regulator said that it is cutting the wholesale price that BT’s infrastructure arm Openreach can charge telecoms companies for its basic superfast broadband service in an effort to ensure “affordable access to superfast broadband for people and businesses”.

For a download speed of up to 40 Mbps, and an upload speed of 10 Mbps, Openreach will be able to charge a wholesale price of £11.92 – a softening of a previously proposed price cut to £11.23.

Nevetheless, BT said in a statement that the price changes contained in Ofcom’s Wholesale Local Access review will have a “year-on-year adverse financial impact on Openreach’s revenue and profit in 2018/19 in the range £80m – £120m”.

Ofcom said the wholesale price adjustment will protect against high prices, particularly in places that are unlikely to benefit from competitive investment, like rural areas.

However, it said it will not to regulate the prices of Openreach’s fastest wholesale superfast broadband products, as this will incentivise operators to build full-fibre networks of their own.

Other measures outlined today include the requirement for BT to 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 directly to households around the UK.

Openreach will also be required to repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels where necessary for other providers to access them.

“Ultrafast speeds will allow people to download entire films, or businesses to share huge files, almost instantly. Full fibre will also underpin exciting technology like remote healthcare diagnostics, 5G mobile and connected devices,” said Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s competition group director.

“The measures we’ve set out today will support the growing number of companies who have already announced plans to build full-fibre networks, and open the way for even more ambitious investment around the UK.”