British telecoms regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on regulatory proposals which it says are designed to promote competition and investment in fibre infrastructure, arguing that such investment is needed to meet future demand for ultrafast broadband services.
Ofcom’s consultation – entitled ‘Promoting competition and investment in fibre networks: Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review 2021-26’ – set outs detailed plans that would be implemented from April 2021. With a four-point plan at the heart of the regulator’s proposals, the core elements are: improving the business case for fibre investment by setting Openreach’s wholesale prices in a way that encourages competition from new networks, as well as investment by Openreach; protecting customers and driving competition by making sure people can still access affordable broadband and preventing Openreach from stifling competition; ensuring rural areas gain access to fibre connectivity by supporting investment by Openreach in these areas; and closing the copper network as full fibre is built, so that Openreach does not have the unnecessary costs of running two parallel networks. Further, the regulator has stressed it aims to protect consumers during the transition, by transferring its regulation – including price protections – from copper to fibre-based services.
With this consultation scheduled to close on 1 April 2020, Ofcom has said it aims to publish its decisions in early 2021, before the current regulation expires in April that year. Meanwhile, the regulator also noted that this review does not cover the Hull area, confirming that that part of the country will be subject to a separate consultation.