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BT Openreach Publish FINAL Dark Fibre Reference Offer for ISPs

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 (2:33 pm) - Score 1,751
major capacity fibre optic cables

Openreach (BT) has today released their Final Draft Reference Offer for the new Dark Fibre Access (DFA) product, which is required by Ofcom and should give rival ISPs “physical access” to the operator’s existing fibre optic cables (i.e. allows them to “take direct control of the connection“).

The “Passive Remedy“, which allows BT’s rivals to install their own equipment at either end of the optical fibre within Openreach’s ducts, was demanded in Ofcom’s 2016 Business Connectivity Review (here and here). The regulator believes that it will deliver more market competition and may speed-up the roll-out of new broadband services around the UK (e.g. backhaul capacity to support new networks).

Naturally BT warns that the solution is a “flawed piece of regulation that introduces an unnecessary layer of complexity and will deter others from building their own fibre networks” and they’ve attracted support from other infrastructure builders, such as Virgin Media, Cityfibre and Zayo; Cityfibre has an active competition case against DFA (here).

Back in 2012 even Ofcom had their doubts about DFA, with the regulator warning that such a solution could “carry significant risks of worse outcomes, both for consumers and for effective competition, including adding costs and encouraging inefficient entry.” How times change.

Never the less Openreach published its first Draft Reference Offer in August 2016 (here), although a recent update from the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator noted that there were still disagreements over contract length (36 month term), Service Level Guarantees, Service Level Agreements for repair work, the price of an abortive visit and cancellation charges (here).

However we assume that some semblance of agreement must have been reached because Openreach has today published their Final Draft Reference Offer, which states that the DFA product will be available on a 12 month term (see contract). Mind you this is still a draft and the official product won’t be launched until 1st October 2017.

Geographic coverage

The regulated Dark Fibre Access product will be available, to all interested CPs, from product launch on 1 October 2017. It will be available on a national basis in the regulated areas, as laid down by Ofcom in their 2016 Business Connectivity Market review (BCMR). The regulated areas, as specified in the BCMR Statement, are the whole of the UK with the exception of Hull, Central London, Core routes and Data Centres.

Services

Openreach Dark Fibre Access service offers an uncontended, unmonitored, unlit optical path over an end to end radial distance of up to 45km and a maximum route distance of 86km between two sites. This will be a passive service and no equipment will be provided to light the fibre provide, hence the reference to ‘dark fibre’ in the product title.

Product options

The service will be available with two variants, Standard and Local Access options, with both being able to be ordered as either a single fibre or fibre pair option, so depending on the overall active solution that customers are planning to operate they can choose the product variant that best suits their needs.

The price of Openreach’s DFA product is linked to their 1Gbps Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) service, thus, whenever the price for EAD 1Gbps changes, the corresponding DFA price will change by the same absolute amount.

On this front not a lot has changed since the first draft (see DFA prices), but the one-off connection prices have become a bit cheaper at points and range from around £2,022.98 to £3,056.22 +vat. Meanwhile rentals run from around £1,968.97 to £4,992.60 per year.

Openreach will hold another industry meeting call for the DFA product on 5th December next month to go over the details and the related Dark Fibre Industry Working Group (DF IWG) is expected to hold its next face-to-face meeting on 13th December.

Once again it’s important not to confuse all this with Ofcom’s other wholesale Duct and Pole Access (DPA) remedy, which will give rivals access to use BT’s (Openreach) underground cable ducts and telegraph poles (i.e. two different sides of the same coin). Cityfibre and others welcome DPA, even if a few of them have had trouble using it (here and here).

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. This is a little frustrating for me. We have a load of BT’s dark fibre running past my office 50 yards away, but to have FTTPoD we’re required to pay £2,500+VAT install and £300+VAT a month for 3 years.

    When I heard about the DFA agreement I thought this might be a cheaper solution but obviously it’s not going to be.

    Never mind!

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Dark fibre wouldn’t be a good alternative to FTTPoD as you’d be missing the ISP component, would simply have a strand of optical fibre between two locations- i.e. No internet connectivity.

    • Avatar MikeW

      A reminder that the “dark fibre” name within the product name doesn’t mean that the product uses existing unlit fibre in the street. It might use that, or it might need new fibre to be installed.

      Likewise, it isn’t a demand from Ofcom for Openreach to start making existing unlit/unused/spare fibre available at low cost.

      The term “dark fibre” just means that, on delivery of the EAD-like product from Openreach, the fibre is dark, and it is someone else’s responsibility to light it up.

      Is it better to think of it as EAD at 0bps?

  2. Avatar Optimist

    A reprise of the scrapping of the rule that only “Post Office Approved” equipment could be attached to the telegraph line.

  3. Avatar Fastman

    keydogg or find a couple of business who want to do it with you and contract openreach to see it you community fibre partnership is a better fit – see openreach website

    • Hi fastman, thanks for the advice, unfortunately there is only one other business within a mile of me (about 300 yards away) so it wouldn’t be suitable I’m afraid.

      I’ve actually just managed to get a pop wireless like working from another site which is consistently getting 40/40 with 3ms ping so we’re not too bad at all now but you just can’t beat full fibre!

  4. Avatar Fastman

    who says it would not be suitable as that well within distance of you doing something together

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