Openreach opens BT's duct and poles up to rivals

The new process comes after Ofcom nearly split BT and Openreach

Openreach, BT's network implementation division, is trialling a new, simpler duct and pole sharing process across the UK, which could launch a country-wide rollout of new fibre broadband networks.

The process would see companies carry out more work themselves as well as more efficiently, without asking Openreach for permission. It is currently being tried by five communications providers including Callflow, NextGenAccess and WarwickNet.

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The streamlined process was developed by an industry working group launched in November 2015, and its announcement comes after Ofcom fell just short of separating BT and its network arm, instead demanding it open up its network more to rivals.

BT responded by saying it would open up its ducts and poles to competitors "if they are genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done".

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said of the trial: "This is an important step which gives greater access to our network and encourages other companies to join Openreach in building better, broader and faster communications services for the whole UK.

"We have already built an open wholesale fibre network which is available to more than 25 million homes and businesses, and we're continuing to bring fibre to more than 25,000 premises each week.

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"We have also outlined ambitious plans to move the UK from superfast to ultrafast speeds, and we support other companies building their own networks using our underlying infrastructure."

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Communications providers will be able to clear blockages they find without consent from Openreach, and install new distribution joints inside junction boxes in order to make deployments more cost effective and faster.

"Our ducts and poles have been open to these companies for several years, and Ofcom has been clear that the price to access them is in line with international comparisons, but they haven't been used on a large scale to date," Selley continued. "We hope that these new, simpler processes which have been designed and developed in partnership with the industry will encourage more companies to invest, particularly in parts of the UK that aren't already served by high-speed networks."

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