A draft decision designed to increase investment in full-fibre broadband which was published by British telecoms regulator Ofcom last month has now been given the nod by the EC. In a press release the European agency said it agreed with proposals put forth by the UK industry watchdog, which outline how it intends to regulate wholesale access to the network managed by BT’s Openreach. In confirming its approval, the Commission said it ‘particularly approves of the intention of Ofcom to make it more attractive for alternative operators to use Openreach’s physical infrastructure, such as through improved and cheaper access to ducts, which should help rolling out their own optical fibre networks’. Further, the EC said that it welcomed the proposal to continue allowing Openreach a degree of pricing flexibility for very high speed virtual solutions to access its broadband network, arguing this should allow for ‘a strengthened business case for what is expected to be a difficult and important decision to invest in very high capacity networks’.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in February 2018 Ofcom claimed its decision not to regulate the prices of Openreach’s fastest wholesale superfast broadband products, including its new full-fibre services, would support the incentives for operators to build full-fibre networks. It noted, however, that to prevent BT from stifling new investment by rivals, the incumbent would not be allowed to make targeted wholesale price reductions in areas where rivals are starting to build new networks. At the same time, Ofcom said it remained keen to protect against high prices, particularly in ‘places that are unlikely to benefit from competitive investment, such as rural areas’. To achieve this aim, it confirmed it would reduce the wholesale price that Openreach can charge for its basic superfast broadband service (which offers a downlink speed of 40Mbps and uplink of 10Mbps). Having initially proposed in March 2017 that it would set the monthly charge for this service at GBP11.23 (USD15.90) by 2021, following a consultation it adjusted the figure to GBP11.92 in its draft decision.