Openreach Reveals Draft Proposals For Duct And Pole Sharing

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Openreach has announced the draft pricing and design proposals for its new duct and pole sharing products, which are aimed at offering communications providers an additional route to market for the delivery of super-fast fibre broadband services in the UK.

Openreach, BT’s local access network division, already provides a range of different options for communications providers to access its fibre network on a wholesale basis. In addition to the proposed duct and pole sharing service, these include:

Generic Ethernet Access (GEA). This is the mainstream fibre access product offered by Openreach which is the fibre equivalent of LLU. The Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) variant of the service is currently available to all communications providers, while the Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) variant is being trialled with a view to launching the product during 2011.

Sub Loop Unbundling (SLU). This is where Openreach provides a communications company with access to a partial local copper loop. The communications provider can then place equipment in their own cabinet near the Openreach cabinet to deliver super-fast fibre broadband speeds to their customers.

Communications providers can also opt to buy the FTTC variant of Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) from BT Wholesale. BT Wholesale is also trialling a FTTP variant of WBC, with a view to launching the product during 2011. Whilst Openreach expects GEA – its mainstream fibre access product – to form the basis of most communications providers’ fibre offerings, duct and pole sharing may also play a role in further extending the availability of fibre broadband services across the UK, particularly within the context of the government organised tenders aimed at bringing faster broadband speeds to rural areas.

The pricing, design and terms and conditions of the Openreach duct and pole sharing products are draft proposals at this stage and follow extensive industry engagement. An industry consultation is planned, together with a trial of the products and process. The commercial launch of the service is expected in summer 2011.

By putting all of this in place, Openreach says it has underlined its commitment to working with industry to find innovative solutions for delivering fibre broadband across the UK and finding new ways of extending the nationwide footprint for super-fast broadband.

Openreach also adds that the proposed pricing of the duct sharing product compares very favourably with similar solutions offered in other European markets. Openreach is proposing that the price for communications providers renting space in its underground ducts will be from £0.95 per metre, per annum. A range of ancillary services and prices will also apply, giving communication providers flexibility in providing a fibre broadband service via Openreach’s duct infrastructure.

Looking at an average across France, Spain, Portugal and Germany, Openreach’s price proposal is approximately 15 per cent below the average.

Openreach is also proposing an indicative pole sharing price of £21.00 per pole attachment. There is very limited international precedent for comparison.

Steve Robertson, CEO of Openreach, said: “Today we’re doing what we promised by offering the communications industry yet another way of accessing our network in order to deliver super-fast broadband speeds to homes and businesses. We’ve listened to the views and requirements of our customers and will continue to work closely with industry and Ofcom to finalise the details of our duct and pole sharing products.

“Although we don’t view duct and pole sharing as the silver bullet to get fibre to every premises in the UK, these new products represent a positive step, opening our infrastructure to supply industry with an even wider range of different mechanisms for delivering fibre broadband. We also think it’s really important that consumers and businesses continue to enjoy a choice of fibre services so we will be expecting others to be as open as we are.”

Through the launch of Openreach’s duct and pole sharing products communications providers will have an innovative new way of reaching communities with fibre broadband services. This sharing of duct and pole infrastructure further encourages and enables options for fibre deployment. With this in mind, we will be seeking that communications providers making use of the Openreach infrastructure also open their own ducts and poles to other operators.

As with current ADSL broadband services, consumers and businesses will continue to expect to enjoy a wide choice of fibre broadband services provided by a range of companies. Therefore it’s important that, like BT, those companies deploying fibre infrastructure make their services available on a wholesale, commercial basis. In any event, this will be required where public funding is used for fibre deployment, for example through the government’s BDUK programme.

In support of this, and in line with our response to Ofcom’s review of the Wholesale Local Access market last year, Openreach plans to include these requirements in the commercial launch of its duct and pole sharing products later in the year, though not during the trial. We believe such an approach will help achieve the goal of extending the availability of fibre broadband services across the UK, to the benefit of businesses and consumers.