BT Group’s infrastructure unit Openeach is reportedly searching for a new broadband equipment supplier as it continues to work on plans for the rollout of full fibre services to millions of premises across the country by the mid-2020s. According to Reuters, Openreach has launched an evaluation process seeking a third strategic vendor for its infrastructure rollout, to work alongside existing partners Nokia and Huawei Technologies. Commenting on the matter, Openreach spokesperson Richard Knowles said: ‘We already manage a large and diverse supply chain across our full fibre build, and we’re constantly reviewing our options to make sure we can carry on building a high-quality network that offers great value for money … We’re on track to make faster, more reliable full fibre broadband available to four million premises by March 2021.’ It is understood that proposals from would-be suppliers are expected to be made by January 2020, with a decision to follow in the second quarter of that year.
Meanwhile, in separate but related news, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is proposing changes to regulations that require Openreach to install new broadband connections within a set period of time. In a press release regarding the matter, the watchdog suggested that the changes ‘would enable broadband companies to upgrade their customers to faster broadband products more efficiently’.
A consultation on the matter has been launched after Openreach advised Ofcom that its wholesale customers were seeking a more efficient and cost-effective way to upgrade exiting retail customers to higher-speed products. To that end, the infrastructure provider is said to be working with service providers to develop a new process for upgrades to be made in bulk batches at a street cabinet, reducing the cost per customer; under this process, Openreach would wait for a sufficient volume of upgrades from a provider at a given cabinet before making those upgrades. With Ofcom acknowledging the potential benefits to customers of using this new bulk upgrade process, it has proposed exempting these types of orders from certain rules which require them to be installed within a set timeframe.