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First Draft – Openreach Offers Cheaper Access to its UK Cable Ducts

Wednesday, Aug 1st, 2018 (1:07 pm) - Score 4,949

Openreach (BT) has today published the first Draft Reference Offer for their revised Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product, which as per Ofcom’s requirements is intended to make it cheaper and easier for ISPs to deploy their own “full fibre” broadband networks via existing cable ducts and telegraph poles.

The revised offer stems from Ofcom’s 2016 Strategic Review agreement with BT Group (here), which among other things proposed an enhanced approach to Duct and Pole Access (DPA). Openreach has actually been offering a PIA solution for several years, although rivals complained that it was cumbersome (administration) to use and suffered from awkward costs.

The old approach and was also more intended for helping to connect residential homes, while using it to provide leased line style rural backhaul or big business connectivity wasn’t possible, even though this helps alternative network (AltNet) ISPs to build a more economically viable model.

In response the regulator told Openreach to revise their approach (here), such as by making sure their ducts were “ready for use” (i.e. repairing faults or relieving congested sections), delivered cheaper rentals, introduced better information sharing (e.g. digital maps), more efficient operational processes and supported mixed usage (i.e. ISPs can deploy local access networks offering both broadband and non-broadband services, provided the primary purpose of the network is the delivery of broadband).


At the time Ofcom said that these measures, which have already been trialled by providers like Virgin Media and Cityfibre, could “fundamentally change the business case for building new networks … It could cut the upfront costs of laying fibre cables by around 50% – from £500 per home, to £250. It could also reduce the time required for digging works, enabling fibre to be installed in some streets in a matter of hours.”

As part of this Openreach are required to publish a Reference Offer, setting out how operational processes (e.g. ordering PIA, clearing blocked ducts) will work, together with relevant terms and conditions including service level agreements and guarantees. Today the first PIA Draft Reference Offer has been published and is open for feedback until 17th August 2018.

Openreach Statement

The Draft Reference Offer is intended to document where we have got to in discussions with CPs, Ofcom and the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA) in making the changes to the PIA product required by the WLA Statement. This includes updates to the product specification, processes and contract.

We’re committed to offering a fit for purpose PIA product to our CPs and meeting our regulatory obligations. We would like to thank CPs for their feedback in the discussions so far and we’ll continue to work with CPs, Ofcom and the OTA in the agreement of the PIA Final Reference Offer.

We welcome feedback on the Draft Reference Offer and recognise there’s further work to be done. There are Industry sessions scheduled to review feedback at the end of August.

As hinted earlier, a number of trials have already been conducted (here), although these did suffer from a few problems with blocked ducts, limited duct space, cost and a lack of maps for new cables causing various hiccups (here and here). Improvements have been made since then but not all of their ducts will be usable.

Assuming all goes well and an agreement can be reached then the revised PIA product should be fully introduced in April 2019, as per the timescale set out in Ofcom’s 2018 Wholesale Local Access (WLA) Statement.

Otherwise it’s worth noting that the Government last week proposed a plan to deliver “unrestricted access” to Openreach’s ducts and poles for both residential and business use, including essential mobile infrastructure, which might require further tweaks to PIA in the future (here).

Some of the Changes Openreach are Proposing

Order Placement / Order journey
· Today – The process is semi-automated with an element of form filling, but CPs can access a mapping tool which allows them to view Openreach’s physical infrastructure and place a notice of intent to use it

· Proposed – A fully automated, self service tool which will generate “keep customer informed” messages (KCIs) throughout the journey

· Today – We don’t have a forecasting regime in place, but request that CPs provide visibility of their requirements, 3 months in advance

· Proposed – We’ll request that CPs provide a 6 month forecast for their plans to use PIA

· Today – We have Service Level Agreements in place in relation to updating our records but no formal Service Level Guarantees in place

· Proposed – Openreach will provide SLAs/SLGs against response times to requests for network adjustments, and completion against Customer Committed Date (CCD) for Network Adjustments where it agrees to undertake them.

Network Adjustments
· Today – Openreach will charge for any network adjustments requested by a CP

· Proposed – Openreach will carry out network adjustments for free up to a cost of £4750 per km on duct.

Multiple Cables
· Today – CPs may install a single cable or sub duct with a maximum diameter of 25mm, charged at a rental cost per metre regardless of the cable size

· Proposed – We will allow CPs to install multiple cables / sub duct within a maximum diameter of 25mm

Joint Chambers on Openreach duct
· Today – Any work to install joint chambers is currently done by Openreach and charged to the CP

· Proposed – CPs may build a joint chamber over an existing section of our duct as long as Openreach specified materials are used

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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2 Responses
  1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    As no-one else is commenting…

    The change to permit chamber building over Openreach duct is huge. That helps others massively.

    New build areas that are Openreach FTTP only will be great for alternative operators to deploy their networks – ducts should be in great shape, won’t be heavily occupied and just a little full-width reinstatement around new chambers housing splitters will be the only construction needed.

  2. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

    OR need to focus more on ROI form their broader asset base.

    Hence making DPA more attractive.

    A lot of the Alt Nets couldn’t be bothered with the previous DPA regime and it was easier and quicker to do their own or find other duct providers.

    Also OR are not the only game in town and are in competition with councils keen to earn from their traffic light cabling ducts and SES and Co do use power ducts in some locations as the fibre is not conductive there is little risk.

    The duct network is a big historical asset and needs to earn out. But also OR need to maintain it a lot better.

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