BT’s competitors are set to be granted access to ‘dark fibre’. As part of that, Ofcom is proposing that BT should give competitors physical access to its fibre-optic cables, allowing competing operators to take direct control of the connection. This is subject to consultation until the end of July 2015 and this form of access would not be available until April 2017.
For many years now there have been calls for Ofcom to force BT to offer a dark fibre product. Today those calls have been answered. The price for access and the conditions on which it is granted will now be subject to debate before Ofcom finalizes its position later this year.
As well as satisfying the demands of large enterprise users, today’s announcement is also set to partially reassure UK mobile operators should BT successfully acquire EE later this year. Vodafone, for example, has been particularly vocal about the need for a dark fibre product to connect base stations and backhaul mobile traffic without fear of interference from BT. This is relevant since BT currently provides all UK mobile operators with high-speed mobile backhaul links.
Elsewhere in Europe, a requirement for dark fibre is fairly common. According to recent Ovum research, around half of the 28 member states already have a requirement in place – along with countries in Asia such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea.