EU approves Ofcom’s unbundling plans for BT’s fibre
The European Union has “largely endorsed” Ofcom’s plans to allow virtual unbundling of BT’s fibre lines – with the caveat that full physical unbundling should follow as soon as possible.
Under Ofcom’s plans, rival ISPs would be given wholesale access to BT’s fibre broadband network, but the telecoms giant would be allowed to set the price and choose the hardware used.
BT already offers its competitors such access, which it calls virtual unbundled local access (VULA), rather than allowing them to put their own equipment in exchanges, as is done with current ADSL services.
This interim solution is not a long-term alternative to physical fibre unbundling, which should be imposed as soon as possible
While the EC said that virtual unbundling would allow enough innovation and competition between ISPs, it stressed that it was only a temporary, “transitional” measure until full fibre unbundling is technically and economically possible.
“In this specific instance, virtual unbundling seems the best option to safeguard competition and enable consumers to benefit from a wider range of services provided over next-generation fibre infrastructure,” said digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes. “However, this interim solution is not a long-term alternative to physical fibre unbundling, which should be imposed as soon as possible.”
The EC explained that “only fibre unbundling will give alternative operators full and direct control over the product they offer to end-users.”
A BT spokeswoman said the existing VULA wholesale product “currently meets the needs of industry,” but wouldn’t comment on how difficult full fibre unbundling might be.