Ofcom to open BT high-speed network to rivals

Picture: Adam Peck/PA Wire
Picture: Adam Peck/PA Wire
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Businesses could access BT’s high-speed data network through a wider range of providers by 2017, under plans from Ofcom.

The telecoms said plans to allow telecoms firms greater access BT’s lines would boost competition in the £2bn leased lines market – which provides dedicated, high-speed data links for large businesses and mobile and broadband operators.

Schools, universities, libraries and other public bodies also rely on leased lines to provide services. As the take-up of smartphones, tablets and smart TVs grows, organisations need “effective choice” between suppliers, Ofcom said.

BT is the largest supplier in the market, with many competitors reliant on its network. The plans would force it to supply “dark fibre” – allowing rival providers to use their own equipment on the fibre-optic network – in areas outside of central London.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom competition group director, said: “High-speed, fibre optic leased lines are invisible to most people. But they form a critical building block in the UK’s infrastructure that underpins people’s personal and working lives.

“Today’s proposals should help businesses across the UK who rely on high-speed data lines. We want to see more innovation, faster installations and more competition, by providing operators with the opportunity to deploy the technologies of their choice.”

Ofcom is also planning to force BT to reduce the length of time it takes to connect competitor lines to its network, providing services to customers in 40 days from order by 2017.

The proposals, including plans for deregulation in other areas, are out for public consultation until July 31.