British fixed line incumbent BT has been told that it will be required to allow rivals access to its under-construction super-fast broadband network, the Financial Times is reporting. The European Commission (EC) has ruled that in the long term the telco will have to allow for the physical unbundling of its fibre network in much the same way as its competitors have access to its legacy copper infrastructure at present. In the interim the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has endorsed a ruling made by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom that will temporarily allow BT to only offer a ‘virtual unbundling’ of the fibre network on the proviso that full unbundling follow as soon as 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,’ Kroes said, adding, ‘However, this interim solution is not a long-term alternative to physical fibre unbundling, which should be imposed as soon as possible.’ As a result Ofcom’s proposal to allow BT to adopt the virtual unbundling will apply for the next four years, although dependent on how the market develops it is understood that a review could be conducted to accelerate the introduction of physical unbundling of the incumbent’s fibre infrastructure.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, BT announced in July 2008 that it had set aside GBP1.5 billion (USD2.98 billion) for the rollout of its fibre-based network across the country, and the network is expected to reach up to ten million homes by 2012.