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BT Adjusts PIA to Meet Latest BDUK and EU State Aid Broadband Rules

Friday, May 17th, 2013 (1:58 pm) - Score 1,862

BTOpenreach has launched a new “Plus” variant of its Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product, which allows rival ISPs access to use BT’s underground cable ducts and telegraph poles. The updated solution has been designed to meet the latest EU rules governing the use of state aid to improve UK broadband infrastructure.

Europe’s updated guidelines, which include a greater focus on support for “ultra-fast” fibre optic (100Mbps+) services, were adopted at the end of last year (here) and have been designed to support a more “technological neutrality” approach to the use of public funding that favours open access networks and transparency.

The rules apply to operators that intend to make use of public funds under the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework and as a result BT has had to adjust its “commercial approach” in order to meet the new conditions. This has resulted in several key changes.

Openreach’s PIA Changes

1. Existing Statement of Requirement Process (SoR) extended to BDUK intervention areas.

CPs wishing to request additional network access products or services in areas where BT has utilised public funding under the BDUK scheme, should follow the normal Industry agreed SoR process.

2. Extending the use of Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) to roll out non Next Generation Access (NGA) services in BDUK intervention areas

Where BT has utilised public funding to enhance its existing infrastructure to roll out SFBB within a specific geographic location, CPs who are accessing the enhanced infrastructure and investing, building managing and commercially exploiting competing NGA networks in the same area can apply for an extension to the use of Facilities installed under PIA to deliver non NGA services within that area. This extension (PIA Plus) will be subject to additional terms and conditions on application. CPs wishing to know more about PIA Plus should contact their SRM for more information.

3. Use of Publicly Funded New Infrastructure

If BT utilises public funds to build new ducts (or poles) where no existing duct (or poles) exists, and the new infrastructure build is over 1km long and costs in excess of £50,000, a further enhancement will be available, under PIA Plus, permitting additional use of a facility installed within that new infrastructure under PIA for non NGA services. As part of the standard PIA process, Openreach will notify industry of any proposed new ducts that meet this criteria and interested CPs should contact their SRM for more details.

On top of that Openreach has also withdrawn its related Exchange Access Link (EAL) product, which provides third party backhaul capability. It’s claimed that the move is part of a wider effort to simplify Openreach’s product set and ISPs will still be able to purchase an “equivalent capability” via the Cable Link product (i.e. no change to the current T&Cs or price).

Sadly we don’t expect the primary changes to produce any dramatic upsurge in adoption of PIA, which has so far remained broadly confined to a predominantly niche selection of operators (e.g. Gigaclear, Call Flow Solutions etc.).

Fujitsu UK had originally intended to use PIA for its national UK FTTH network but, like so many other operators before it (e.g. GEO, Vtesse etc.), eventually withdrew from the BDUK process altogether over economic concerns (i.e. difficult to compete with BT).

Back in November 2011 GEO noted that the biggest problems with PIA were the “heavy restrictions“, which meant it could only really “be used for providing the final drop from local exchange to a residential broadband consumer’s house“. Using it for other things, such as rural backhaul or business connectivity (e.g. leased lines), had effectively been ruled out and thus made the economic case for using PIA very challenging.

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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