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Ofcom tells BT to up its game

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, has called for BT to up its performance by installing high-speed lines for businesses in 46 working days by the end of March 2017, and 40 working days by 2018.

It comes after the regulator noted that BT’s average time for having a line ready had increased from 40 to 48 working days since 2011.

Ofcom has also told BT to reduce prices for the lines, and propose prices and terms for rivals to install their own equipment to use its fibre connections. In line with the review of the communications market, Ofcom also recently said it would impose higher service standards on BT’s networks division Openreach.

The regulator has already told BT to help rivals use its infrastructure to lay fibre cables that are faster than its own copper network, but without recommending the forced split of Openreach.

“BT is relied on by many companies to install these lines, and its performance has not been acceptable,” Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s competition group director, said. “These new rules will mean companies across the UK benefit from faster installation times, greater certainty about installation dates, and fast repairs if things go wrong.”

Telcos, such as Vodafone, TalkTalk, and Sky, voiced concern that Ofcom has not gone far enough. Vodafone commented that Ofcom must apply strict price controls on access to BT’s high capacity network for the UK to catch up with other countries.

“We believe it is vital that the structural separation of BT Openreach remains an option Ofcom is actively considering as it could effectively address all of the current problems the regulator has identified in the UK telecoms market,” Vodafone added.

BT admitted that “there is more to do on service” but argued that “ethernet provision can be complex” and that some and delays are “often beyond [its] control”. The provider also highlighted that the price cuts would not help to underpin service improvement, and argued that due to growing competition in the business market was a “strong case for less, not more, regulation.”

The new rules will be finalised at the end of April upon the approval of the European commission.

Image source: Flickr/Andy Budd