BT fights back as Ofcom plans to force firm to open data network

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson
BT chief executive Gavin Patterson
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BT has clashed with Ofcom after the regulator told it to open up its high-speed “dark fibre” network to rivals.

Ofcom said its plans would boost “competition and innovation” in the £2bn leased line data market for businesses from 2017.

Leased lines are dedicated high-speed data links used by large firms, mobile and broadband operators and schools, universities and libraries.

Currently, BT sells wholesale leased lines to other providers, which it provides through its Openreach division. The changes would let rival firms to use their own equipment on the network.

BT said the changes could favour large firms and hurt investment. It said: “Openreach’s current offer creates a level playing field and a vibrant, competitive market with hundreds of competing companies, large and small. Mandating dark fibre risks favouring a few companies that have the greatest capability to deploy it.”

The telecoms giant has been criticised by competitors for its control of the UK’s network. TalkTalk welcomed Ofcom’s plans.

It said: “For too long BT has been able to get away with delivering poor service to Britain’s businesses at inflated prices and these recommendations will help drive competition into the commercial market.”

Peter Ward, dealer at London Capital Group, said BT would “put up as much of a fight as possible” over the plans.