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BT Openreach Make Digital Infrastructure Mapping Tool Available to Rivals

Monday, Feb 6th, 2017 (4:07 pm) - Score 15,047

Openreach (BT) has today announced the launch of their new Digital Mapping Tool, which the operator claims will “make it easier” for rival alternative network ISPs to plan and build their own fibre optic broadband infrastructure by harnessing BTOR’s existing network of cable ducts and poles.

Readers might recall that Ofcom’s original Strategic Review announcement in February 2016 (here and here) included a revised approach to Openreach’s existing Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product, which will help ISPs to build alternative fibre optic broadband networks (FTTP/H) by granting them easier and more flexible access to the operator’s cable ducts.

As part of that the national telecoms regulator also called on Openreach to provide “comprehensive data on the nature and location of its ducts and poles” to rival providers (here), which the operator now appears to have “delivered ahead of schedule.” In theory this means that related ISPs will no longer need to request static records and network diagrams from Openreach when planning their own broadband networks.

openreach_mapping_tool_ui

However at launch the tool is still missing a few key features, such as the requested ability to show how much capacity is available in each duct and which parts of the network have already been reserved for building work by other companies. We understand that these features are due to be added “over the coming months“.

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said:

“This is another important development in our plans to give greater access to our network and encourages other companies to join Openreach in building better, broader and faster communications services for the whole UK.

As our infrastructure already exists, CPs will be able to build and expand their fibre network in far quicker timescales than if building it from scratch. The mapping tool further enhances that process – giving CPs exactly the same level of access to our network data as Openreach.

Our ducts and poles have been open to these companies for several years, and Ofcom has been clear that the price to access them is in line with international comparisons, but they haven’t been used on a large scale to date.

We hope that these new, simpler processes – which have been designed and developed in partnership with the industry – will encourage more companies to invest, particularly in parts of the UK that aren’t already served by high-speed networks.”

On the other hand BT has previously warned that “not all” of their cable ducts and poles will “translate into useable duct space” and indeed we’ve seen plenty of issues with blocked, full or simply poor quality cable ducts crop up as part of the Broadband Delivery UK linked deployments, which in some cases have prevented local upgrades due to the high cost of repair or challenges with access.

Five ISPs, such as Vodafone, Callflow and Cityfibre, have already taken part in an early trial of the revised approach (here) and some of the above highlighted problems were indeed encountered (here and here). Never the less Ofcom believes that this approach does still “provide a basis for cautious optimism” and Openreach’s enhanced Duct and Pole Access (DPA) solution has now left the trial phase and was fully launched last month.

The old PIA solution was a bit of an administrative muddle, which also suffered from awkward costs and was more intended for helping to connect residential homes. Ofcom hopes that the new solution will also be used for business connectivity (this makes the economic model for altnet ISPs more attractive) and should be simpler to use, although only time will tell how much of a difference it actually makes.

Ofcom are currently running another consultation on the new PIA / DPA solution and they intend to set out their full proposals for this during Spring 2017, which could require Openreach to make further changes.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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