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Ofcom UK Soften Openreach Rules for IP and FTTP Migration Trials

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 (12:11 pm) - Score 4,268

Ofcom are consulting on a new proposal that could remove a few key pieces of regulation from Openreach (BT), which is intended to support their analogue telephone (WLR) to digital voice (VoIP) and copper to “full fibre” (FTTP) Exchange Upgrade trials (here and here) in Mildenhall (Suffolk) and Salisbury (Wiltshire) respectively

At present Openreach is currently investing £8m to roll-out FTTP broadband to c.20,000 premises in Salisbury by April 2020, which will effectively give them universal coverage of the city. As such the area has been chosen for their Exchange Upgrade trial (i.e. switching off copper and going full fibre) and under the current plan they intend to put a “stop sell” on new copper services from December 2020 (May 2021 for analogue phone in Mildenhall).

As part of the above effort Openreach will also offer a low speed 0.5Mbps FTTP tier specifically to support voice-only customers (here) and Ofcom will require them to offer a regulated 40Mbps (10Mbps upload) broadband product to support consumers being migrated away from older copper ADSL lines.

Both of the aforementioned trials are set to run until December 2022 or later and Ofcom has said that they expect Openreach to cover an entire exchange area (100%) with “fibre” (they include both FTTP and G.fast into this specific definition) before they start to move the regulatory focus away from copper (the transition period for this will take several years).

As part of this Openreach has informed Ofcom that they wish to amend their wholesale charges for the Salisbury and Mildenhall trials to “encourage early participation … These changes include waiving connection charges and maintaining wholesale rental charges at the legacy service rate for one year after migration.”

The regulator’s current rules would prohibit some of this and so Openreach has requested that a few of the rules be waived to facilitate their trials.

Brief Summary of the Proposal

We are proposing to limit the application of three of our rules to enable Openreach to vary its charges for the Salisbury and Mildenhall trials. Our proposed amendments are:

• For both trials, to remove the rules which require Openreach not to unduly discriminate when providing network access, including the requirement to provide identical wholesale services to all telecoms providers (an obligation known as ‘equivalence of inputs’). These proposals would also have the effect of dis-applying the obligation to provide copper-based broadband services at uniform prices across the UK.

• For the Salisbury trial, to remove the rule which specifies that in areas where Openreach has deployed full-fibre and has withdrawn its copper-based broadband services, it must offer a 40 Mbit/s download, 10 Mbit/s upload (40/10) full-fibre based broadband service at the same regulated price it charges for the equivalent copper-based service elsewhere in the UK.

These proposals would apply only to certain charges offered by Openreach for the Salisbury and Mildenhall trials and for a limited time. Our rules would continue to apply in full elsewhere in the UK.

The consultation itself closes on 6th January 2020 and Ofcom then intend to publish their decision later in that same month. Details here.


Just for a little more background on that request concerning the 40Mbps FTTP tier, this is what the consultation says:

Openreach’s Reasoning

Openreach considers that elements of the Trials Offer would be contrary to certain obligations imposed on BT in the 2018 Wholesale Local Access (WLA) Market Review. Those elements are:

• In the Mildenhall trial, customers migrated from WLR/SMPF or MPF services would be paying lower rental charges, for the term of the offer, for the SOGEA 40/10 service than customers of the same service provided elsewhere. This would breach the obligation imposed on BT to not apply different prices in different geographic areas.

• In the Salisbury trial, customers migrated from WLR/SMPF or MPF would be paying lower rental charges for the FTTP 40/10 service than for the FTTC 40/10 service for the term of the offer. This would breach the obligation imposed on BT to provide the 40/10 FTTP at the same rental charge as the FTTC 40/10 (and MPF) service where FTTC is not available at a location.

• In both trials, customers would be paying different charges for the same service, since the migrated customers would continue to pay the rental charges for the legacy services from which they have migrated for one year post migration. This would breach the obligations imposed on BT to not discriminate unduly against Third Parties when providing network access and the obligation to provide network access on an Equivalence of Inputs basis.

Accordingly, Openreach has requested that we waive the relevant regulations for the duration of the Trials Offer (SMP Conditions 4.1, 4.4, 5 and 7B.5 (a)(i)).

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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.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. ianh says:

    Just curious, but are they going to pull all the old copper at some point?

    1. dave says:

      They will likely pull copper cables that they can easily get out as it is valuable. They aren’t going to dig up a road to pull a cable out though as that would be too expensive. If they cable is an aluminium cable instead of copper they won’t knowing pull those out as that wouldn’t be worth much.

    2. A_Builder says:

      The problem with pulling the old heavy copper out is the damage and disturbance to other services in the ducts.

      As the copper is so heavy it will need to be pulled out pretty physically with a winch and anything that get stuck (as the external sheath ages on the old cables they get quite sticky) to the side or wrapped round it of it will get ripped out too.

      It is a nice idea to free up duct space for OR to rent to others so I suspect it will be done in some areas.

      Over head is a different story and it will almost certainly be removed to reduce pole loadings which will increase the pole lifespan.

    3. dave says:

      I wish this website used Disqus or some other commenting system as you can’t edit comments which is annoying.

  2. Roger_Gooner says:

    Initially VoIP will be delivered over existing copper wires. Should FTTP be installed at a later date I’d expect the fibre to be blown into existing ducts wherever possible, so I can’t see how the copper wires can then be pulled out without damaging the fibre.

    1. Justsayin says:

      Naa, that’s all wrong. There will be very minimal blowing (old fashioned). Most fibre will be in sub duct, completely protected. Solid fibre cables can take a beating. Now and again in very congested ducts a few cables may get burnt, rubbed through, but that’s pretty rare these days. VOIP over copper wires I’ve no idea, but doesn’t sound right.

    2. A_Builder says:

      VoIP over copper is absolutely fine.

      Used VoIP phones over FTTC connections for years with no issues – plenty of bandwidth for that sort of thing.

      To a large degree the withdrawal of PSTN has nothing to do with withdrawing copper from the PCP – > exchange. PSTN is a dead duck irrespective and the wrong tech to be using these days.

  3. TheFacts says:

    2.3 With PSTN Switch-off, Openreach is preparing to withdraw analogue telephone services by 2025. Communications networks are now built for data, and the PSTN is reaching the end
    of its life. IP technology (over copper or fibre) can be used to provide high quality
    telephone services and innovative voice services.

    2.4 For most of the country, copper retirement will come sometime after PSTN Switch-off, and the challenges of migrating vulnerable customers to IP technology will already have been addressed.

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