Fibre rivals to get access to BT’s ducts

BT is preparing to let rival ISPs lay fibre in its underground ducts, removing one of the roadblocks to next-gen broadband.

At present, rivals who want to lay fibre are forced to go through the expensive process of digging up pavements or finding an alternative method of channelling fibre, such as through the sewer network.

The new proposals would see BT give rivals access to its nationwide network of underground ducts, potentially removing one of the biggest costs of a fibre deployment.

BT chief executive Ian Livingston, says the company has been considering the idea for some time, although the Tories recently suggested they might force BT to share its ducts if the company didn’t move voluntarily. “We told Ofcom last year we’re willing to provide open access to our ducts… and we are working with them on how to achieve it,” he said.

Although it’s unlikely to be the silver bullet to get fibre to every home, open access to all ducts, not just ours, might help BT and others extend coverage

“Although it’s unlikely to be the silver bullet to get fibre to every home, open access to all ducts, not just ours, might help BT and others extend coverage and so we would like to see a future government support such a move.”

Livingston’s comments uphold BT’s long-held assertion that it should be granted access to Virgin’s fibre network, but a Virgin Media spokesman told PC Pro that the matter isn’t currently open to discussion.

“Our priority is working on our own services,” said a spokesman for Virgin Media. “There has been no regulatory mandate from Ofcom to open our ducts.”

BT says that shouldn’t make a difference. “Anyone putting fibre down a duct should be obliged to wholesale it,” a company spokesman told PC Pro.

“BT’s network was not inherited for free. Our shareholders bought the old network and have invested many billions over the 25 years since then in upgrading it. Only 10% or so of the old network remains and our £1.5 billion investment in fibre is obviously new”.

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