British telecoms regulator Ofcom has detailed its plans for overseeing Openreach, the infrastructure arm of fixed line incumbent BT.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in March 2017 BT and Ofcom reached an agreement on a long term regulatory settlement under which Openreach would become a distinct, legally separate company with its own board, albeit operating within BT Group. Progress has already been made in this regard, with Ofcom appointing a new chairman and board, with the majority of members having no affiliation with BT Group. In addition, Openreach has set up its own compliance committee, and is consulting publicly on a new process for engaging with telecoms companies on planned services and investments.
For its part, Ofcom has said that it will examine whether all retail consumers using the Openreach network are ‘receiving decent speeds, and the right service to meet their needs’. To that end, it will measure and report on Openreach’s contribution to expanding fibre broadband coverage, and has said it expects the network unit to be ‘responsive to different models of investment proposed by its customers, including co-investment and risk sharing’. The regulator has also said it will report on Openreach’s repair and installation times, and whether engineers are turning up on time. To do so, Ofcom is establishing a dedicated ‘Openreach Monitoring Unit’, with this entity tasked with assessing whether new governance rules are being observed, and whether Openreach is acting more independently of BT, making its own decisions, and treating all its customers equally. Ofcom will publish its initial findings six months after voluntary commitments made by Openreach as part of its legal separation agreement come into effect, before going on to make annual reports.
In separate Openreach-related news, Chinese vendor Huawei has tested a 25G/100G symmetric PON prototype with the British network outfit at Openreach’s lab. The vendor confirmed that the prototype supported four channels which delivered a maximum symmetric bandwidth of 100Gbps, while it was said to support a single channel of 25Gbps and would could support two or four channels for business and mobile backhaul services. Commenting on the tech test, Tim Whitley, BT’s Managing Director for Research & Innovation, said: ‘This test proves that Openreach can deliver user services with higher bandwidth based on their fibre networks, unlocking greater potential for broadband networks. We will continue to maintain advanced networks to meet users’ potential demands in the future.’