Comment : No Need For Tories To Break Up BT Monopoly

On Sunday, Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said that a Tory government will coerce BT into allowing its fiercest competitors to use its extensive network infrastructure.

The Register understands that Mr Hunt, and subsequently the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, will be targeting Openreach, and not BT proper.

Although Openreach is a division of BT Group, it is legally obliged to follow certain rules following the Enterprise Act of 2002 that was introduced after the Ofcom's Strategic Review of Telecommunications.

The purpose of Openreach is to ensure that all "rival operators have equality of access to BT's own local network". The solution has proved to be a major success with around 400 or so service providers being served.

Openreach will use the £1.5 billion committed by BT to roll out Fibre access across the country reaching up to 40 percent of homes in Britain by 2012.

This is not a government-initiative but a private one. BT's fibre-broadband services will deliver download speeds of up to 100mbps and upload speeds of 10mbps.

In a statement, BT laid out the facts bare "The UK boasts one of the most competitive broadband markets in the world with BT having a 25 per cent market share. 99 per cent of homes can access copper broadband, prices are low and close to 20 million homes are already enjoying services."

As for its competitors, well, Virgin Media has already said that it will provide super fast broadband to more than 50 percent of UK Households with speeds going up to 200mbps; tests started last year and Virgin Media could be a mere 12 months away from an official launch. It is already serving tens of thousands of customers with 50mbps broadband from £35 per month.

Sky is also fully committed to faster broadband and is currrently trialling fibre-optic broadband based on BT's Infinity package (from Openreach) with upload speeds of 10mbps and downloads speeds of 40mbps.

No launch date has been unveiled but Sky has a site already up with three exchanges selected for the trial. Not surprisingly, Talktalk will be using the same infrastructure and yes, there is a fibre optic trial going with a registration page here.

So with four of the biggest ISPs in the country already committed to Fibre Optic broadband and likely to cover the majority of the country as early as 2012 with speeds likely to reach 40mbps, there seems to be no need for government intervention yet.

As for the Tories, maybe they need to update their data sets. In January 2009, Jeremy Hunt published an article on his blog in which he said that less than one percent of the UK population access the internet using "modern" fibre optic technology. In reality, 12.6 millions households were already served by fibre optic even then if Virgin Media PR is to be believed.