BT told to open up its cable network by Ofcom

The plans stop short of splitting up BT entirely

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The Independent Online

BT has been told to open up its network, allowing competitors to connect fibre to homes and offices, to improve superfast broadband in the UK.

So far eight in ten UK premises get superfast broadband. That's expected to reach 95 per cent next year. Ofcom, the communications watchdog,  must make sure 98 per cent of homes and offices have indoor 4G mobile signal by next year.

“People across the UK today need affordable, reliable phone and broadband services. Coverage and quality are improving, but not fast enough to meet the growing expectations of consumers and businesses," Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said.

To make sure this happens, Ofcom has recommended that BT Openreach is gives up its control over telegraph poles and other connectors so that other companies can use them, which should improve competition and drive down prices for customers.

The plans stop short of splitting up BT entirely as competitors including TalkTalk, Vodafone, and Sky had hoped. They rely on Openreach's lines to deliver broadband and said that Openreach would not improve networks and service as part of BT.

The recommendations will help Ofcom roll out ultrafast broadband networks that use cable and fibre lines as an alternative to the partly copper-based technologies that BT is planning.

Openreach is part of BT, but was given a mandate to treat competitors fairly by Ofcom in 2005. But research has shown that decisions are still made in the interests of BT, rather than competitors.

The new recommendations go much further than those made in 2005 in strengthening Openreach's independence from BT. Ofcom did not rule out splitting BT and Openreach in future.