Land Securities challenges BT's phone monopoly to new homes

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The Independent Online

Land Securities, the UK's largest quoted property company, has challenged BT's virtual monopoly in providing telephone connections to new homes and businesses.

Land Securities, the UK's largest quoted property company, has challenged BT's virtual monopoly in providing telephone connections to new homes and businesses.

The FTSE 100 property company wrote to telecoms and media regulator Ofcom on Monday urging it to consider whether BT has the right to impose itself as the de facto telecoms provider on new developments.

Land Securities is concerned that BT will use its powers in Ebbsfleet Valley, a mixed-use development at Thames Gateway in Kent. The scheme is for 10,000 new homes and 8 million sq ft of mainly commercial property, on a site near the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Land Securities wants to wire up the properties with fibre optic cables to offer high-speed broadband internet access. BT hasn't yet decided whether it is prepared to do this and Land Securities is concerned that BT may instead install a lower-speed copper wire network.

To do this, BT may use the Universal Service Obligation, which requires the company to provide telecoms services to all parts of the country.

In its letter to Ofcom, Land Securities says: "We understand that BT seeks to use this obligation to confer on itself a right to provide infrastructure to new developments, which is not provided for in law. We are concerned that by seeking to acquire this 'right', BT further entrenches its copper monopoly and removes the incentive for alternative suppliers to develop advance networks in new property developments."

BT is running trials of fibre optic cables in three London locations.

A BT spokeswoman said: "BT believes it is now reasonable to consider the commercial deployment of fibre ... where it proves economic to do so." She said that no decision had been taken over Ebbsfleet.

A spokeswoman for Land Securities said: "Our document was lodged with Ofcom to safeguard our future position. We believe it would be wholly misleading to infer from it that BT is not co-operating fully on the potential for it to lead the installation of fibre optic technology at Kent Thameside."

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