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BT to share cable duct network with rivals

08 февраля 2010

BT is preparing to open up its underground cable ducts so that rivals can run their own high-speed broadband networks through the telecoms company’s infrastructure.

Action by BT could allow competitors to lay their optical fibre cables without the expense of digging up pavements.

BT’s willingness to open up its ducts marks an important policy shift by the company, and emphasises the intensifying political and business pressure that it faces.

Last month the Conservatives pledged that, if the party were to win the next general election, they would legislate to force BT to open up its ducts. The Tories hope their legislation could stimulate market-led investment that would ensure superfast broadband networks reach rural as well as urban areas.

BT stressed it had been talking to Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, since last year about opening up its ducts, and that its decision was not a response to the Conservatives.

Ian Livingston, BT’s chief executive, told the Financial Times: “We told Ofcom last year we’re willing to provide open access to our ducts . . . and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Although it’s unlikely to be the silver bullet to get fibre to every home, open access to all ducts, not just ours, might help BT and others extend coverage and so we would like to see a future government support such a move.”

BT is rolling out a £1.5bn high-speed broadband network using optical fibre, and the company hopes to secure a return on its investment partly by signing wholesale deals with rivals.

By such deals, companies including British Sky Broadcasting and Carphone Warehouse’s Talk Talk telecoms subsidiary could buy wholesale fibre products from BT so as to supply high-speed internet access to their customers.

But if BSkyB or Talk Talk were to decide to lay their own fibre networks in BT’s ducts, they would reduce their use of the company’s wholesale products.

Both BSkyB and Talk Talk are unhappy with aspects of BT’s wholesale products. Talk Talk said last month it was to consider the case for rolling out its own fibre network.

Ian Watt, analyst at Enders Analysis, said one possible outcome of the Tory broadband policy could be to induce BT to make its fibre wholesale products more attractive to companies including Talk Talk.

He added that any action by BT to make the products more acceptable could also render them less profitable.

BT last month outlined an aggressive consumer pricing strategy for superfast broadband products that undercuts Virgin Media, its main rival in high- speed internet access.

BT hopes to increase its broadband market share, which is markedly lower than many of Europe’s former fixed line phone monopolies.

Источник: Financial Times

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