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Friday, 13 December

Fast and the Furious - BT Must Improve Broadband Speeds

BT must open up its network so competitors can connect fibre to homes and offices and it must reform Openreach to serve UK consumers and businesses better, says Ofcom.

Ofcom has set out how it plans to improve telecoms quality and coverage, so that UK consumers and businesses receive the best possible phone and broadband services.

These are the initial conclusions from Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications, announced last year.

Many of these measures affect all major phone and broadband providers. Others relate specifically to Openreach, the division of BT that maintains the UK’s largest phone and broadband network on behalf of competing providers.

 

Ofcom’s decisions are designed to achieve:

  • A choice of networks for consumers and businesses. Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to allow rivals to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices.
  • A reform of Openreach so it makes its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy, in consultation with the wider industry.
  • Better quality of service across the telecoms industry. Ofcom intends to introduce tougher rules on faults, repairs and installations; transparent information on service quality; and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong.
  • Better broadband and mobile coverage. Ofcom will work with the Government to deliver a new universal right to fast, affordable broadband for every household and business in the UK. There is an intention to place new obligations in future spectrum licences to improve rural mobile coverage.

Ofcom has also announced a new strategy to promote large-scale roll-out of new ultrafast broadband networks, based on cable and fibre lines, as an alternative to the partly copper-based technologies currently being planned by BT. Supporting investment by rival providers will reduce the country’s reliance on Openreach, and increase competitive pressure on its network, it is claimed.

To help bring this about, Openreach will be required to open up its telegraph poles and ‘ducts’ - the small, underground tunnels that carry telecoms lines. Using these, rival providers will be able to build their own fibre networks, connected directly to homes and offices.

Openreach must make it much easier for competitors to access this network, and provide comprehensive data on the nature and location of its ducts and poles. This new ‘digital map’ of the UK will allow competing operators to invest, plan and lay advanced networks, giving people more choice over how they receive their phone and broadband services.

 

Quality of service

Ofcom intends to introduce a range of measures designed to ensure that all phone and broadband companies provide the quality of service that customers expect.

Openreach will be subject to tougher, minimum requirements to repair faults and install new lines more quickly.

Ofcom will introduce performance tables on quality of service, identifying the best and worst operators on a range of performance measures so that customers can shop around with confidence.

 

Better broadband and mobile coverage

Coverage of broadband and mobile services is increasing fast. More than eight in ten UK premises can now receive superfast broadband, and this is expected to reach 95% next year. Under Ofcom rules, 98% of homes and offices must receive an indoor 4G mobile signal by next year.

Picture: BT will be rushing around so that 98 per cent of the country should have 4G by the end of 2017 and 95 per cent should have high speed broadband

Article written by Robin Snow

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