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Ofcom Sets Out Changes to Fuel UK Full Fibre Broadband Rollout

Tuesday, Jul 24th, 2018 (7:33 am) - Score 2,748

The national telecoms regulator has today followed yesterday’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (here) by setting out the core regulatory changes that they intend to pursue, which will support the government’s new plan and aim to spread Gigabit capable “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband ISP networks to all by 2033.

At present only around 4% of homes and businesses in the United Kingdom can access a pure fibre optic service via Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) style technology, which is capable of delivering speeds of 1000Mbps (1Gbps) and well beyond into the future. The government has since made clear that they want 15 million premises to have access to this by 2025 and then nationwide to all by 2033 (here).

Yesterday’s FTIR report made clear that the gov expects it to be commercially viable for two or more providers to invest and deploy such networks for the first 80% of premises, provided the right support is given to encourage investment. After that it noted that the next 10% might be able to support a commercial deployment, albeit only from a single operator, while the final 10% would require public funding (est. £3bn to £5bn).

Overall the report said that the total cost of a national roll-out would likely be £30bn, although it’s worth considering that some of this cost will have already been completed as part of existing hybrid fibre and fibre optic deployments. The rollout of this is already underway by various ISPs (Summary of Full Fibre Broadband Plans and Investment) and is now ramping up.

Ofcom’s Changes

Suffice to say that the FTIR report proposed various changes and now Ofcom has followed that by today setting out what regulatory tweaks it will be consulting upon in order to support that plan.

Key Regulatory Full Fibre Changes

• More holistic consideration of business and residential markets to address areas where telecoms operators still have ‘significant market power’. We will focus on incentivising companies to build networks by opening up infrastructure to competing operators. This should be complemented by regulation where necessary to protect consumers and competition.

• Supporting a move towards unrestricted duct and pole access. Companies will have greater flexibility to use Openreach’s telegraph poles and underground ‘ducts’, to lay fibre networks that serve residential customers or business customers. At present, duct and pole access is restricted to networks focusing primarily on the residential [and small business] market.

• Different regulatory approaches in different parts of the country. We will vary our approach depending on the intensity of network competition in different areas. This will support widespread availability of full-fibre across the UK, even in the most remote areas. Where competing networks emerge, there will be scope for greater deregulation.

• Longer-term certainty for investors. We will lengthen the period of our telecoms competition assessments, from three years to at least five.

• Public intervention in remote areas where there is no prospect of network competition. While competitive investment will drive fibre investment in remote areas, regulation is only part of the solution to securing better broadband for people across the country. The Government has recently announced a proposal to intervene to support full-fibre network construction in these areas.

• A smooth transition from older copper networks to full fibre. As copper phone and broadband networks are replaced by fibre, regulation will need to consider how services on the old networks are priced, and the value of the assets recovered over time. During the transition period, we will prioritise stable regulated products and prices, and consistent quality of service. Consumers will need to be protected during the transition –for example, by ensuring that vulnerable people receive appropriate assistance during the migration process.

• Preserving incentives for Openreach to invest. We will ensure that Openreach has the opportunity to make higher returns where a risky investment is successful, to compensate it for taking that risk. We applied this ‘fair bet’ principle to Openreach’s superfast broadband investments, resulting in a 10-year period of pricing flexibility, and Openreach earning cumulative returns significantly higher than its cost of capital.

Under this plan Ofcom said they would consult in the autumn on unrestricted access to Openreach’s cable duct and poles (aiming to have the new measures in place from the start of 2020) and they’re due to consult on a “finalBusiness Connectivity Review soon (some regulation will be put in place from April 2019 to last for two years), which will re-examine the leased line market and take a second stab at a Dark Fibre Access (DFA) product after the first one failed (here).

The organisation also clarified their new approach to handling regulation. “We plan to consult in the autumn on how we should define geographic areas as either competitive, potentially competitive or non-competitive. By April 2021 we plan to have regulation in place, covering wholesale access to broadband networks, that varies by geographic area,” said Ofcom.

This new regulation will replace their previous Business Connectivity Market Review (after the “final” one above) and Wholesale Local Access Reviews, and under the new rules will be in place for at least 5 years. They will consult on proposals ahead of this new regulation during 2019 and 2020. A general roadmap is below.


Interestingly Ofcom appears to disagree with the government’s admittedly quite optimistic view that the market should be able to deliver FTTP / FTTH networks to the first 80% of premises with their proposed changes. “Our initial view is that up to 60% of premises are in areas that could be attractive to new entrants building fibre networks,” said the regulator.

On the above point it’s worth remembering that the commercial market struggled to bring slower speed hybrid fibre services (FTTC, HFC DOCSIS etc.) to more than 76% of premises and those were much cheaper, as well as faster, to deploy than FTTP. The existing £1.6bn+ Broadband Delivery UK programme thus tended to focus on the final 30%.

In other words, even with the above changes we think that commercial operators will struggle to do 80% by themselves and 60% seems much more realistic before intervention is required (i.e. a bigger public funding bill to reach 100%). As ever though the devil will be in the detail and today’s update from Ofcom merely reflects a general summary of their future approach, which means we’ll have to wait for the consultations in order to get the necessary detail.

The regulator is of course separately already working to choose ISPs and design the funding solution for implementation of the Government’s 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) minimum broadband speed under a new legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO), which is expected to reach a conclusion before the end of 2018 (here).

Ofcom’s FTIR Regulatory Proposals

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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19 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Mart says:

    Fibre ducts should be laid as a matter of course in every new trench made by the gas, electric and water providers. As fibre does not suffer from any interference it could easily be piped into old and new homes with the power cables. National grid have an chance to rent ducts to openreach. Government should crack heads together and get this sorted.

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      Sounds good in theory but in practice doesn’t work except when talking about new developments.

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      I don’t think that will work terribly well. Telecoms is ‘on top’ in terms of vertical separation for a reason. If you lay fibre down lower with power the net result will be more contractors getting killed.

    3. Avatar photo Adam Jarvis says:

      Just to add there are a few problems, Where reinforced fibre cables have been carried via Telegraph Poles, BT have avoided placing any fibre near overhead high voltage overhead Power cables due to the metal reinforcement used around the fibres.
      So while there isn’t an electrical interference issue as such, there is a H&S potential electrocution issue for BT Openreach employees, to be avoided in terms of re-routing cables

  2. Avatar photo Andrew Rood says:

    If they want everyone to go fibre the telecom businesses should lower there prices not charge people high prices

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      When you’re finished with the magic money tree can I borrow it!

    2. Avatar photo Curious says:

      How on earth could the network be extended if everyone was paying rock bottom prices?

      Another example of someone wanting everything for nothing.

      I guess they could just tell their contractors/suppliers “please can you give us a discount because no one will pay us what it actually costs to do this”…

  3. Avatar photo Rahul says:

    Ofcom setting out changes will have no influence on BT Openreach rolling out Full Fibre because Openreach will simply not listen to Ofcom and the Government. Ofcom and the government are like statues they can repeat themselves like parrots but they have little influence in making any changes.

    I said it before BT Openreach say one thing and then do something completely different. They are lying about their 3 million FTTP aspirations by 2020. 15 million premises by 2025 and 100% FTTP by 2033 is not going to happen when they constantly change their minds every once in a while. They have no concrete plan, no timetable or even if they do, they don’t seem to adhere to it.

    Guess what just happened?! Openreach apparently changed their minds on FTTP plans for my area. Exchange name: Bishopsgate

    “You’re in a plan to get Superfast fibre but we haven’t started work yet.” <—– Only until a few days ago for 4 months before that it said "Your area is currently in our plans to be upgraded with Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)."

    Now I am more and more convinced that FTTP rollout in the UK is going to be a very slow and tedious process when I have yet to be upgraded with FTTC. If there is any progress in the next 10-15 years, that will be from Altnet providers.

    I'm pretty angry about this but I was mentally and psychologically prepared for that. I knew BT Openreach will betray sooner or later and they have done just that! Well Done!

    1. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      I’d say the opposite.

      If OR are skipping FTTC then they have to go straight to FTTP.

      So while upgrading the whole of the UK will be a slow process, nobody ever said otherwise, not having anything fast means that the uptake on FTTP will be high which gives good ROI and therefore a strong commercial case.

      Being Bishopsgate I assume it is most Exchange Only Lines round there and OR have been pretty clear that Bishopsgate is on the FTTP roadmap.

    2. Avatar photo Rahul says:


      I hope so. But that is what I find strange and contradictory. https://www.homeandbusiness.openreach.co.uk/fibre-broadband/when-can-i-get-fibre
      The website shows for my postcode which is an Exchange Only line as “You’re in a plan to get Superfast fibre”

      Superfast means FTTC and Ultrafast would be advertised as FTTP. The thing I don’t understand is why has this been reverted back from the the FTTP upgrade plan wording? Could it be that BT Openreach gave up on FTTP deployment for my postcode area for Bishopsgate?

      Further more I am seeing for another postcode E1 7RQ that is of Canon Barnett Primary School and that has been downgraded back to… “We’re working with government and industry to explore ways to bring Superfast fibre to as many people as possible but don’t have a plan for your area yet.” That is also under Bishopsgate Exchange when previously it said that it was in a plan to be upgraded with FTTP!

      The impression I am getting is that BT Openreach will probably target main office buildings, new buildings and certain properties for Bishopsgate that is easier for them to deploy and obtain wayleave, but it will not cover the entire area or areas that are located in more difficult spots. Now I am less hopeful that by 2020 my postcode area will be upgraded with FTTP. Given how unpredictable BT Openreach are in their words, I don’t trust them.

      Fibre First Programme will probably not cover all the 8 City of London exchanges and 8 UK cities fully. I have a feeling Openreach only made that promise to shut the media, Ofcom and the Government so they aren’t put under heavy pressure and criticism. If they can’t get urban areas sorted how will they convince us that they’ll invest FTTP in towns/rural areas of the UK? This is why I am pessimistic about the UK reaching 50% FTTP by 2025!

    3. Avatar photo Adam Jarvis says:

      Plenty of people including me have been saying for 10 years it would be slow progress and rurally we should do it once and it should be done right i.e pure FTTP from the start (B4RN style). That all new builds should have been fibre first, from 2010 onwards. None of this is new, the Ofcom statement today is 10 years late.

      Instead obfuscated, bamboozled “up to” FTTC was chosen and 10 years later, we are paying BT twice for what we thought was “Fibre Broadband”, but in many cases, it turned out that BT just upgraded their legacy ‘up to’ copper carcass from 0.5mm to 0.9mm copper cores in the final leg of the local loop to just meet 24Mbps/30Mbps Superfast thresholds stated in the contracts, where they could.

      To me, that not exactly in keeping with the basic ideology of rolling out “Fibre Broadband”, in general public layman’s terms. Personally, I think BT were acting deceitfully regarding this type of trickery.

    4. Avatar photo FibreFred says:


      All sorts of things can change. For example, it could have been on the plan and then they had run into complications. Issues with Planning/works etc. Which has meant for now its de scoped and they move onto something else until the issue is resolved.

      Just because things change in some areas, it does’t mean the whole plan is a lie and won’t happen.

    5. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Rahul you could have always co funded it yourself

      I find it rather ironic that your frustasted that you don’t like how a company decides to spend it own money !!!!!

    6. Avatar photo Rahul says:

      @Fastman You told me that before I remember. But I have problem with wayleave. Even if I were to co-fund this myself the wayleave issue still remains a problem. I live in a private high rise building where we are the leaseholders of the property but the building freeholders are the ones who have the power to make ultimate decisions.

      Having spoken to my Building Manager on a few occasions in the past he told me that they don’t want to make an agreement with Hyperoptic at this stage, but if they were to do it they’ll want to do it with another provider. This has been going on for over 3 years.

      Ok, so I was thinking if BT Openreach also showed interest that might be able to persuade my authority to sign a wayleave.

      It’s obviously not a nice feeling to be informed that FTTP is in Openreach plan it then gets us excited and then suddenly it makes us feel let down. That feels like a betrayal.

      @FibreFred That’s the problem, if they don’t have the competency to deal with complications they aren’t going to roll-out fibre and live up to their promise. Until those issues are resolved the years will fly by and no progress will ever be done! Just like FTTC has not been supported yet in my area and it has been years with no signs of it happening.

      I’m trying to be practical. I know 50% FTTP by 2025 is unrealistic, it’s not going to happen, forget it. Because like you say complications will always occur and this will delay the project completions and if at every stage BT Openreach find barriers they will simply give up and abandon it altogether. They have demonstrated that they lack ambition and discipline in their Fibre roll-out, it’s no wonder Ofcom and the Government have been talking about legally separating BT Openreach.

  4. Avatar photo Happy Scott says:

    Rahul – they are serious about the 3m. The 2025 is a 10m ambition but needs government and the regulator to help with that aspiration. Help that will almost certainly benefit all that are or intend to deploy fibre. The 2033 ambition is a government one not an Openreach one. Plans do change and it’s unfortunate that you got a change in your area. But, whether you like it or not, no one has done more to rollout high speed broadband than Openreach.

    The UK’s race to the bottom in terms of end user pricing whilst good for the end user has not encouraged investment.

    1. Avatar photo Rahul says:

      But how do you know that they are being serious when they say that? That’s what Clive Selley says. April 2018 https://www.homeandbusiness.openreach.co.uk/news/clive-full-fibre-conference

      2 months before that February 2018 BT faced legal challenge of being spilt from Openreach. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/02/10/bt-faces-fresh-calls-spin-openreach/

      This announcement doesn’t necessarily mean that they are serious about delivering it. It hints more as a self-defence mechanism to put themselves off the hook. It’s buying time so that they are left in peace.

      Even if they do fulfil the 3m promise by 2020 this is after a lot of pressure. It BT weren’t put under great pressure and criticism they would’ve never announced the Fibre First programme!

      There’s a lot of articles out there promising a lot but have very little coherency. Here’s another ridiculous article from 2 years ago. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/08/uk_govt_fibre_rollout_inca/ “80% FTTP in UK by 2026” lmao. Let’s face it even if the UK reached 10m by 2025 that would be 50% FTTP. It’s not going to jump another 30% a year later in 2026.

      There are a lot of unrealistic ambitions that never get fulfilled. Sometimes I just feel these articles are written only for the purpose of clickbait and selling newspapers.

  5. Avatar photo Mart says:

    I thought my mother in law was the best at finding any excuse for NOT doing something. Honestly some of you are no better. Portugal has 89% fttp. I have seen it in action. Stringing duct along with the electric cables. Didn’t notice dead bodies everywhere. For gods sake it’s not rocket science. BT make tying a ladder to a pole a 10 page document. Ggrrr

    1. Avatar photo This stuff should be easy says:

      Been saying this for years. We need a complete rethink on how utilities are installed. To me the answer is obvious. There should be a preformed modular box to go in footways that are connectable to form long runs that carry all utilities separated in to their own subducts. Access to any part of the network should be trivial and not involve anywhere near the level of excavation required today. All new footpaths should have this installed and any work on existing footpaths would need this retro fitted.

    2. Avatar photo Rahul says:

      This comparison with Portugal is not accurate. Sure Portugal has 89% FTTP. I’m half Bulgarian and Bulgaria has 75% FTTP along with Romania which also has over 80% FTTP coverage.

      The point is, these countries are small in population and land size aside from Romania that has 20 million. There is less industrialisation compared to the UK, less red tapes, resulting in no wayleave issues. There’s also less roadblocks, asphalt, etc. There’s less planning permission required so they can string cables alongside poles, cheaper workforce, etc.

      We need to also consider safety matters. If Fibre cables are installed along poles, some youth gangs might vandalise them. It’s safe in the countryside area where there are older people who are more trustworthy.

      There’s a big difference between digging soil and digging asphalt! Ordinary villagers like B4RN project was made by people who could dig the soil. But these same villagers are not qualified enough to dig asphalt to install cables underground. The same goes for poles.

      Smaller countries have less installation works to do. The bigger the country in land size the lower the FTTP coverage, generally speaking. The Fibre project is far greater of a challenge in bigger populations and countries compared to smaller ones as wayleave is naturally going to be more complicated when there’s a greater number of people that worsens law and order.

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