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Openreach’s London FTTP Broadband Rollout Faces Wayleave Obstacle

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 (10:20 am) - Score 4,125

The boss of Openreach (BT), Clive Selley, has expressed concern over the delays being caused to their rollout of 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) broadband ISP services across the UK City of London, which is partly due to the challenge of getting permission (wayleaves) from landlords.

Wayleaves are notoriously complicated and often costly legal agreements, which grant special access to land or buildings for the deployment and management of new infrastructure, such as running a new fibre optic cable through buildings or installing related infrastructure. But these can be tricky because each land or building owner requires a separate approach and then the wayleave may need approval from tenants, which takes time.

In recent years that have been many attempts to try and standardise the process and templates, which is something that the City of London Corporation (CLC) did all the way back in 2016 (here). Other London boroughs, such as Hammersmith and Fulham, have also managed to reach special “master wayleave” agreements with ISPs like Community Fibre.

Nevertheless sometimes the problem isn’t so much the agreement but rather the deceptively simple sounding task of actually getting into contact with somebody who can help.

Clive Selley, Openreach CEO, said (City A.M.):

“The one obstacle we face is with the owners of big buildings in city of London. It’s tough in London to work out who owns buildings and contact them, it’s quite unique as its an international city and buildings are owned by people across the planet.

I worry that some connections could take years if the building owners don’t come forward.”

The CEO of FTTB ISP Hyperoptic, Dana Tobak, has frequently expressed similar frustrations and recently said that “wayleaves are the number one hindrance to urban rollouts [in the UK]” (here). Related problems like this have long blighted rural deployments too, such as Openreach’s FTTP rollout in Wales, although the issues in cities are often less about visual impact or rentals and more a case of admin.

This is also one of the issues that the government are currently examining as part of their Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which is due to start consulting upon some initial proposals this summer 2018. In the meantime Selley has suggested that every building should display their owner details and he wants a central registry for such information.

On top of that Selley says it should also be a “requirement” to invite fibre optic broadband firms in to deliver FTTP/B when new buildings are being constructed. At present the rules only require that property developers include infrastructure that can facilitate the future deployment of fibre broadband (e.g. cable ducts). The Local Government Association also also called for change (here).

Openreach aims to reach 3 million UK premises with FTTP/H by the end of 2020 and they could then deliver 10 million by 2025. Today’s comment also came as Openreach confirmed that 21 Whitefriars Street had become the first office building in CLC’s area to be connected up to their FTTP network and, throughout 2018, some 12,000 more premises across the rest of the City of London area will be given access to this service. The rough rollout regions and dates can be seen below.


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19 Responses
  1. Skyrocket says:

    Getting permission (wayleaves) from landlords for FTTP can be nightmare and often delaying or even not gonna to happen in the future.

  2. NGA for all says:

    Ofcom’s product definition for Wholesale Local Access includes FTTP. There is only a small step in accepting the functional equivalence of fibre and copper in terms of delivering a connectivity service fulfilling a USO. The law could be changed to support the replacement of copper with fibre allowing the existing wayleaves to be utilised. This may not suit Ofcom’s new found desire for full fibre competition, but there is plenty to be had on the wholesale side.
    The upgrade to fibre access ought not present a material change to the existing wayleave if the objective is to replace and improve the current local access. In the context of the wayleave what is the difference between overlaying more copper capacity and the decision to use a better material to do a functional equivalent job of enabling connectivity.

    1. A Builder says:

      @NGA for all

      That is a very good suggestion allowing a straight swap for fibre from copper.

      For once I do agree with OR on this: it is an administrative nightmare often a very hard to solve nightmare in my experience.

      One commercial building I’m involved in the landlord wanted over £3k + legal fees for running a fibre over an existing cable tray that already had a BT wayleave but the wayleave only mentioned wires. Absolutely mad. Killed the project.

      Another one we had the wayleave was for ‘telephone apparatus’ but we managed to argue that fibre was telephone apparatus as it was taking the voice calls albeit over VoIP/SIP.

    2. NGA for all says:

      A_Builder – ‘wires’ it is. .. facilitating a telephony or connectivity service it is.. They need to have the confidence to declare an eventual end to the copper access network in the City.

    3. CarlT says:

      It isn’t up to Openreach when the copper is retired. They weren’t able to retire ADSL from cabinets earlier in the year let alone the copper entirely.

      Openreach are on record saying that the ability to retire the copper is a precondition of the extended FTTP rollout to 2025. They are entirely at the mercy of Ofcom however.

    4. A Builder says:


      Retirement of copper should be part of the carrot to encourage more full fibre deployment.

      It would be utterly unfair to expect OR to run two separate networks.

      However, it would have to be on a full USO to each area by area with eye wateringly heavy penalties for breach. ie they can retire copper when and only when a fully agnostic wholesalable network is in place in that area and that includes the ability of other operators to decide Rx/Tx ratios.

    5. NGA for all says:

      CarlT – full fibre ‘retires’ copper automatically on new builds and refurbs. The capacity to complete a full transition needs regulatory blessing but you can begin on an opt-in basis. The substitutability (sorry) of the medium fibre for copper – in the context of the wayleave for the access network should be possible and supported.

    6. CarlT says:

      That makes very little sense. New build isn’t substitution of anything for anything, it’s new build. Brownfield is the problem and Openreach literally cannot remove copper and replace with fibre regardless of whether or not those in receipt opt in, they rely on Ofcom. Wayleaves are irrelevant to this problem and it needs resolving before those may even be looked at.

      FTTP requires additional installs into properties to terminate the fibre regardless.

      If you would like to go persuade Vodafone, Sky, TalkTalk et al to cease their opposition to this that’d be great, however I can’t see any benefit to any of them in it for right now given none of them sell Openreach FTTP and 2 of them want to build their own FTTP networks so having Openreach’s build hamstrung actively benefits them.

      I’d rail on Ofcom on both counts. They should be petitioning the administration on the wayleaves issue and ignoring the self-interest of OLOs in order to expedite replacement of copper with fibre.

    7. TheFacts says:

      Highly likely a company will wish to keep some copper lines so cannot be a complete replacement. eg. lift lines.

  3. MikeP says:

    Interesting map. In that Wood Street and Moorgate “exchange areas” are shown when those exchange buildings are physically long gone. “Wood Street” copper goes back to Baynard House (yet an ADSL line I had once on Charterhouse Street had attenuation matching a line length of well over 2Km. Must have gone clockwise round the city walls 🙂 )
    Residents of the Barbican also suffered grievously over ADSL connections being unavailable for months when Moorgate was closed.

    1. Dect says:

      Regarding Wood Street the exchange equipment (TXE4) may long be gone but if I remember correctly (its been 30 years) the original main cables (E sides) are still there but routed directly on to Faraday exchange not Baynard House which is across the road.

    2. CarlT says:

      That’s how it was 10 years ago, too. LLU kit serving both exchange areas was in the same place but distinctly marked to separate the cable bundles.

  4. Rahul says:

    Very interesting to see this map chart! I am exactly in this Bishopsgate Exchange where it shows that my area is in a plan to be upgraded with FTTP!

    So I am assuming that these are one of the 8 areas that will be part of the Fibre First Programme from BT Openreach that should technically reach 3 million premises by 2020 if I am not mistaken.

    But anyway, going back to the dreaded Wayleave, that is where my real concern is, always was! It all sounds exciting to see Fibre to The Premises as a plan for my given area or the areas listed in this map. That was exactly the kind of chart I was looking for with calendar dates set out! But my real problem is convincing building authorities to come to terms with an agreement.

    Hyperoptic have expressed the same frustration when I was discussing with them via email since February 2015 when my Building completed the 30+ registered residents interests. For more than 3 years I have been stuck in the same boat “Building permission needed.” Three Hyperoptic Representatives wanted to meet my Building Managers for a Face-to-Face meeting to discuss this.

    But the Building Managers always keep extending the time telling me that they are busy with other priorities such as Fire Safety for the block discussion on whether they have to replace cladding following the Grenfell Fire incident. So they keep avoiding this Fibre discussion despite the fact that this issue with granting permission has been stagnant even before the Fire Safety cladding was an issue. Somehow I feel this is an excuse by the Building Managers even though at the same time they say they will definitely look into Fibre for future but they don’t specify when.

    Looking at this September-December time frame for Wayleave rollout talks just feels too unrealistic in my opinion. Considering that I myself have personally struggled to convince the authority to grant Hyperoptic permission in those 3 years. Sept-Dec seems too good to be true considering the fact that we are talking about all Buildings covered in the exchange areas!

    I think Wayleave is going to be the biggest obstacle in delaying the FTTP deployment and I am worried that BT Openreach may not get Wayleave agreement in time for them to be able to complete even the initial 3 million project by the end of 2020!

  5. Kevin says:

    This is all very well to say wayleaves should be easy peasy. That the owners of property have no right to say no! But I bet all the people who argue it should be an obligation to just say yes – would go mad if someone tried to dig up their front garden without permission to lay a cable. Its also just nonsense to argue that laying a Fibre cable over a copper one should not require permission. It’s another physical deployment so of course it does!

    1. A Builder says:


      Sorry should have been clearer. What I was saying above was that where there are ducts and cable routes that already exist and there is no major change to fabric it should be a deemed consent regime.

      If OR need to dig up, for example, the terrazzo paving outside the front then they would need consent.

      Sure there have to be common sense rules to these things but anything that gets rid of a mass of time wasting and project slowing admin out of the way is only a good thing. I don’t think anyone wants or is asking for a free for all.

      If we want, as a country, to fibre up then barriers to doing so need to be ruthlessly broken down.

    2. Rahul says:

      @Kevin But that shouldn’t be a problem for Central London. Because the majority of the properties in these exchange areas are situated in Apartment Blocks and high rise buildings. There are very, very few houses in the City of London with gardens to require individual consent from landowners.

      So here’s an example in my case, I live in a 20 floor high rise private estate building with 82 flats. In this case you wouldn’t request permission from the 50+ leaseholders asking for their approval on the installation of a new fibre cable entering their flats or installing new master socket. The fibre cable goes through the entire building.

      In this particular case BT Openreach will need to get Wayleave agreement from only the 1-2 Building Estate Managers. Here’s however a different problem though, even if all 82 flat residents/leaseholders say “YES” to Fibre but that one Building Manager says “NO” then again we will be stuck without the Fibre installation agreement proceeding forward.

      That is of-course my biggest concern! I managed to get 30+ residents speaking to each of them separately and telling them to register their interest for Hyperoptic. They all did, I even saw all the number of residents in the site being completed. But finally we got stuck with Managers who aren’t ready yet to give permission. All my energy and hard work went to waste… The same scenario will probably repeat itself with BT Openreach as well unless of-course they have some special magic ability to persuade the authorities to grant wayleave.

      If by normal procedure we can’t get wayleave. Ultimately what will be needed is to be given persistent pressure every once in a while, make them fed-up. I mean it’s not going to last eternally. I and others are happy to give my authority pressure for the next 10 years! What will they do?! Eventually they will give up and say “YES” to FTTP. Also the authorities won’t be the same forever, they will be replaced one day to some less restrictive ones who will be happy to say yes without much dispute.

    3. Joe says:

      The only way to deal with that might be either through mandating large flats are retrofitted (in a time frame) and leave it to the building managers to sort. Or if a majority of residents request it and a provider will provide it then the managers can’t unreasonable refuse permission. (the latter is a legal concept used elsewhere in property matters)

  6. Joe says:

    ” In the meantime Selley has suggested that every building should display their owner details and he wants a central registry for such information.”

    Not sure this will work. The people that can’t be found on the existing system won’t be contactable on the new one or bother to submit details or keep them uptodate.

    Perhaps a magistrate could be given the power to authorise work at any building where contact can’t be established (after all reasonable efforts had been attempted). Obviously a balance of public interest test needed but it may help

  7. Mark says:

    I’m sure they’ll get there, it’s ironic though that they estimate it’ll cost what, 3 billion to install FTTP across all properties across the entire U.K.? And yet that’s about how much money the government have wasted in HS2 so far with estimates putting the total figure at 90 billion sterling!
    So a few billions for something that benefits the entire country, or near, 100 billion for a train set only a few want and will use.. usual useless backward government and civil service thinking then,

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