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UK and EU Pricing for Superfast Broadband Cable Duct and Pole Access

Thursday, Nov 15th, 2012 (2:07 am) - Score 2,028

A new report, which assess the potential impact of new EU regulatory proposals to cut the cost of broadband infrastructure development across Europe, has delivered a useful insight into the costs of giving ISPs access to install their own fibre optic lines via BT’s existing cable ducts and telegraph poles.

Europe’s current Digital Agenda strategy aims to make 30Mbps+ available to 100% of households by 2020 (with 50% being within reach of a 100Mbps+ service). The European Commission recognises that this is an expensive process and recently commissioned Analysys Mason to investigate five policy proposals that could potentially cut the cost and burden of such work (i.e. making it more attractive for investment).


EU Proposals to Reduce Broadband Costs and Admin Burdens

• A centralised atlas of passive infrastructure
• Mandated access to passive infrastructure
• A one-stop-shop for rights of way and administrative procedures
• A database in which all planned civil works must be published
• An obligation to equip all new buildings with high-speed (100Mbit/s) Internet access, as well as mandated open access to the terminating segment.

Broadly speaking the study, which has just been published, revealed that the proposals would “most likely have positive results on coverage” and will “reduce costs“. But it similarly warned that the measures are closely interlinked and some aspects, such as the demand for a “centralised atlas of passive infrastructure“, remain expensive.

In fact the full cost savings could only be achieved if all of the measures were implemented together. Analysys Mason categorically said that the proposals “should not be considered separately“.

Matt Yardley, Author of the Study, said:

It is widely accepted that civil works such as digging trenches account for up to 80% of broadband deployment costs. By implementing measures that aim to reduce the amount of civil works required, e.g. by encouraging the sharing of existing passive infrastructure, it is likely that the overall cost of deploying new networks can be reduced.”

Some aspects of the EC proposals have already found their way into the UK government’s bid to resolve “unnecessary bureaucracy” in the current planning system, which will be handled through its Growth and Infrastructure Bill (BIG).

The study also highlighted some useful graphs, which expose the monthly charges for access to incumbent-owned cables ducts and telegraph poles in Europe. This is particularly relevant to BTOpenreach in the UK, which offers a Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) solution that allows rival broadband ISPs to access its telecoms infrastructure.


The graphs show that access prices vary widely across Europe, with the typical cost of access to incumbent-owned cable ducts appearing to be less than EUR 0.30 per metre per month. BTOpenreach itself comes out cheaper in many areas but more expensive in others (we covered some of this last year). It should be said that these graphs do not cover all of the relevant costs.

cable duct access prices 2011
cable telegraph poles access prices 2011

So far BTOpenreach’s PIA product has only seen an extremely limited uptake, usually from smaller projects, with larger ISPs being unable to make the economics work in their favour (BT also imposes a number of tight restrictions, such as against backhaul use). It’s worth mentioning that this is one of the areas that Ofcom intends to investigate as part of its new review into the Fixed Access Market and the Wholesale Broadband Access Market, which began last week (here).

But, even if the product was to be made more attractive, PIA now appears increasingly unlikely to see any significant uptake. Part of the reason for that is because Fujitus’s related plan to build a rural FTTH network has effectively been shelved and none of the other major operators, excluding Virgin Media, appear keen to invest in their own alternative infrastructure.

As a result the biggest improvement for consumers might well end up coming from Ofcom’s ability, or lack thereof, to introduce more competition into the existing market for superfast broadband services. This won’t improve coverage but it could bring the prices down and that would boost uptake, which over the longer term is just as important.


Analysys Mason Report for the EC (PDF)

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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