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BT forced to open up fibre network to rivals

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom today laid out new competition rules for the UK's broadband market, opening up BT's fibre network to greater competition - as well as unbundling underground ducts and telegraph poles.

The statement opens BT's next-generation fibre network up to the same competition that currently exists between ISPs using the UK's existing copper wires.

BT will be forced hand over control of some fibre lines to other ISPs, enabling them to offer super-fast broadband services of 100Mbps or more to their own subscribers.

The prices for BT's wholesale products will, says Ofcom, provide "a fair rate of return reflecting commercial risk" - but will be governed by rules to prevent anti-competitive pricing.

BT must also provide rivals with access to its underground ducts and telegraph poles, enabling them to install their own fibre networks more cost-effectively.

The move could speed up the roll-out of faster fibre broadband services to more remote rural areas and parts of Britain where BT has no plans to roll out fibre of its own, encouraging broadband operators to run cables over existing infrastructure such as telegraph poles.

Back in May this year, cable provider Virgin Media teamed up with a local power company in a similar scheme, running fibre optic cables on electricity pylons to supply super-fast broadband to the Welsh town of Crumlin. The area had previously been a so-called rural 'not-spot', unable to receive fast broadband services.

The project followed an earlier, successful scheme to install above-ground fibre on purpose-built infrastructure to the Berkshire village of Woolhampton.

Those with too much time on their hands can read the statement in full here.