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Openreach Seek Changes to Make Building FTTP Broadband into Flats Easier UPDATE2

Tuesday, Apr 2nd, 2024 (11:29 am) - Score 3,520
London, UK – May 18, 2015: Canada Tower of Canary Wharf at sunset, international business and banking aria

Network access provider Openreach (BT) are reportedly lobbying MPs, both UK government ministers and members of the Labour opposition, to introduce further legislative changes that could make it even easier for them to extend their 1.8Gbps speed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network into multi-dwelling units (MDUs) by upgrading existing copper lines.

The government has already done a fair bit of work to help make it both quicker and cheaper for gigabit broadband networks to access big residential buildings (e.g. apartment blocks / flats), such as via the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act 2021 (TILPA), which tackled situations where so-called “rogue landlords” failed to respond (here and here), and tenants demand faster connections.

NOTE: Openreach’s full fibre currently covers 13.5 million UK premises (build rate of c.73,000 per week) and they aim to reach 25m by Dec 2026 (here) – 6.2m of those will be in rural or semi-rural areas. After that, there’s an aspiration to reach up to 30m by 2030.

The TILPA changes essentially tackled this by introducing a significantly cheaper and faster route for dispute resolution via a new court process, but this only applies after a landlord has repeatedly failed to respond to requests for access. According to the FT (credits to Steve for spotting), Openreach appears to want to sidestep this process by securing a change that would allow them default access to conduct an upgrade, such as when they already have existing copper line infrastructure inside the building (i.e. extending existing maintenance/repair agreements to include full fibre).

The UK is home to approximately 480,000 blocks of flats or apartment buildings (MDUs). But Openreach’s CEO, Clive Selley, said the process of obtaining new wayleaves (legal land/property access agreements) from landlords to install full fibre was still “painful … time-consuming and it’s expensive” and could “easily double the cost of providing fibre to a small block”.

Despite TILPA, the operator still claims to be finding it difficult to contact the owner or managing agent of a building and has had to bypass almost 1 million apartments on streets where it had already laid full fibre. However, we should point out that this problem affects all network operators, not only Openreach.

Similarly, it’s plausible that at least some of the MDUs being referenced by Openreach may already have access to gigabit-capable broadband via a different operator, such as Virgin Media or Hyperoptic, although the FT didn’t think to query that. One other thing to be aware of here is that, if Openreach were to be granted such an extension of access, then they would gain a competitive advantage that rivals networks may not be able to harness.

According to Clive Selley, Labour was “engaging and listening” to its policy request, although it remains to be seen whether that is merely paying lip service to the issue. For its part, the Conservative government has pointed out that landlords have rights too.

A Government (DSIT) spokesperson said:

“Measures providing network operators the ability to enter multi-dwelling units without permission from the landlord, as proposed by Openreach, would significantly and adversely impact on the rights of property owners and occupiers.”

Suffice to say that there are complex issues to consider here, although Openreach have made clear that they’d be just as happy for a change to be introduced that makes it similarly easy for rival networks to access MDUs. The issue was considered while TILPA was being created, but was rejected.

In any case, even if such changes were tabled for debate tomorrow, it would still be at least 1-2 years before they could be introduced. In other words, the issue of MDUs looks set to run for a few more years yet, assuming further changes do eventually get made.

UPDATE 3rd April 2024 @ 11:17am

We’ve had a comment from CTG, which is a landlord advisory service that conducts safety reviews in support of landlords – it doesn’t build or install full fibre infrastructures itself. But Complete Fibre, which is the independent installation arm of CTG Holdings, does offer fibre installation.

Kevin Monaghan, Chief Commercial Officer of Complete Technology Group, said:

“We see high levels of poor quality and unsafe Full Fibre installations in MDUs. Removing landlords’ ability to control access increases the risk for residents. There is a difference between landlords ignoring requests for access (which the law already deals with) and landlords insisting on access under reasonable conditions.“

UPDATE 3rd April 2024 @ 2:10pm

Hyperoptic’s boss has added their thoughts. The operator also builds FTTP/B networks into a lot of MDUs.

Dana Tobak, Hyperoptic’s CEO and Co-Founder, said:

“Openreach is lobbying for access to every block of flats in the country, without the need to even tell anyone that they’re doing it. Not only does this entrench the position of a near-monopoly provider and severely undermine the competition that leads to consumer choice, it is also an unacceptable attempt to ride roughshod over the rights of landlords and tenants. We strongly refute that this is necessary or appropriate and urge Labour to recognise the damage that this measure will do to competition and to property rights.”

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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37 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Vince says:

    It’d be great if we could get Openreach to make installs generally easier anywhere. Given what a disorganised clown show it often is getting them to do work, even when an MDU etc isn’t a barrier.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Struggling to get an install into an area that shows as being live?

  2. Avatar photo Zakir Hussain says:

    How comes Community Fibre and Hyperoptic have there fibre network covered to multi-dwelling units (MDUs) but we know both Community Fibre and Hyperoptic have massively slowed down there builds.

    1. Avatar photo carlconradw says:

      Because they have reached agreement with social landlords covering their estates, representing large numbers of dwellings.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I assume the difference is that hyperoptic/CF go into “friendly” buildings and will pick and choose who they cover (hyperoptic in particular used to use its speed as a selling point for themselves and for the building’s prospective tenants/buyers), while Openreach has no real desire to play landlords and agents’ games.

      Besides, as the USO operator, they should be able to gain access to upgrade their existing infrastructure

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      They aren’t upgrading existing infrastructure they’re overbuilding it, Ivor. Unless the USO is modified and they’re going to be placed in violation of it if they cannot overbuild that’s not an argument to give them free access to MDUs. They aren’t allowed unfettered access to unadopted streets and the same will apply to MDUs.

      The same issues are impacting VMO2’s attempts to overbuild their HFC network in MDUs and will impact Hyperoptic if/when they try to replace their copper in MDUs with fibre.

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      While I’m here… ‘Openreach has no real desire to play landlords and agents’ games.’

      If that’s the case that’s pure, undiluted arrogance from the incumbent. The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill assists in avoiding such ‘games’ and mediating disputes. I’m sure every operator would love free access to private property, it’d save them a bunch of time and money, however the property owners have rights too so a balance between the three parties involved, leaseholders, freeholders, infrastructure companies, has to be sought. Can’t just give one of those parties free reign to do whatever in complete ignorance of the wishes of the other two whatever they may be.

  3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Same problem with new housing estates where the roads and paths remain in the hands of the builder instead of being adopted by the local authority. You are then restricted to whatever service the builder allows and a lot of them are signing exclusive deals with altnets who can then charge customers pretty much what they like.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Yup, and this is absolutely disgusting behaviour.

      Any kind of anti-competitive restrictive covenant like this should be getting picked up by the buyer’s solicitors, but often overeager buyers completely overlook it.

      No way would I want a dirty builder to decide who I can get my broadband from.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Doesn’t need anything explicit in the documents the solicitor will review so nothing for them to pick up on.

      The default if none of the roads and pavements are going to be adopted would be whomever has plant there at build get to remain the only providers.

      Is this still a thing for estates of any scale? I wouldn’t touch a property in an estate with no adoption planned but small private streets are still a thing for sure.

      Our property has a shared drive leading to it with different sections owned by the three homes and easements in place for utilities. Roads and pavements are in process of adoption with the only privately maintained parts being communal grass areas.

    3. Avatar photo - says:

      Main problem being councils drag thier feet adopting roads because it is just extra cost to them. They get nothing from it, apart from more work and liability. So they object and delay and kick into the long grass. Result of that being that a developer owns a street that will be adopted “any month soon” so providers just avoid and think maybe we’ll come back later when it’s adopted (but probably don’t because that doesn’t happen for 2 years if ever).

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      I can’t say I’ve seen the delays you describe in either of the local authorities I’ve owned property in. The council have provisionally adopted promptly once remedial works were done and completed the adoption after the 12 month period and outstanding works were sorted.

      The section 38 agreement should have timescales baked in for the benefit of both local authority and developer.

    5. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      Presume that different areas have different budgets, and internal metrics. However I think the suggestion that a developer would rather retain responsibility for a road including eventually liability for potholes, trip hazards, resurfacing, grit bins, line painting so they can keep a couple of extra broadband subscribers is a bit mad.

  4. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    “if Openreach were to be granted such an extension of access, then they would gain a competitive advantage that rivals networks may not be able to harness.”

    Only in as much as they already have a competitive advantage by having their existing copper line(s) in place.

    Given the obsolescence and planned retirement of the copper network, it’s surely reasonable to allow Openreach to replace copper lines with fibre, without additional permissions or paperwork. In the end, the only other alternative is that the householder loses their service entirely.

    1. Avatar photo Alun Cox says:

      Copper based broadband with remain for quite a few years. It is only the PSTN system that is being retired and that has been delayed for 2 more years.

    2. Avatar photo FibreEng says:

      They still require permissions to replace the copper with fibre. 9 times out 10 the building is prewired with copper, usually any kind of upgrade to fibre requires surface mounted cabling or route approvals depending on how old the building is.

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      That’s the problem really, the prewiring. It isn’t replacing the copper with fibre it’s building a new fibre overlay leaving the copper in place. While you would hope there are risers and structured cabling that probably won’t be the case for older buildings.

      It’ll be no different to an altnet MDU build and will almost certainly involve drilling.

      Bit of a tightrope to walk in terms of rights of freeholder and leaseholders.

    4. Avatar photo - says:

      My view on this is that whoever’s fault it is, open reach should be enabled to do a fibre upgrade and not overlay. It should be possible for them to drop a splitter and single fibre to the street (or a CBT, whatever it doesn’t matter) next to each copper DP and then use the copper line as pull cord for each upgrade as they come in. They should of had people in thier engineering department work out the diameters of their copper drops and make sure the fibre drops are the same or smaller. They could of trained engineers on cutting and attaching, not proceeding unless they think they will get it done same day.

  5. Avatar photo Paul says:

    Openreach are indeed a clown show. It’s been over 4 weeks, with two different ISP’s, and still no Wayleave in place for my install of FTTP in my flat. Housing Association quite rightly expect a Wayleave, but Openreach are quite happy to send subcontractors on two wasted journeys and because they are unreachable, the subcontractors don’t have access to that information. Openreach won’t deal with customers directly and just point me back to my ISP. Some work has been done outside but I don’t know if Openreach ever sought permission from the Housing Association.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      4 weeks really isn’t that slow for a wayleave into an apartment block. They’ll be wanting to build to the whole block.

      Looks like the problem is their availability checker is showing you as available when you actually aren’t. Ordering repeatedly isn’t going to get you served sadly.

  6. Avatar photo boost says:

    Can’t come quick enough, just give them the powers already.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The owner of the freehold for the property you’re in probably doesn’t share your enthusiasm and that’s the rub. There are already laws on the books for access in case the owner ignores requests, and a tribunal system to mediate disputes.

  7. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    Ah, about time, I just saw something from OR being planned around the corner here not too long ago — however it was swiftly rejected quite quickly after it showed up.

    Everything else in the area thus far hasn’t been outright rejected. It could have been due to road disruption though as to why they cancelled it as it is one of the ways into the area.

    And would therefor force a likelihood diversion of 5 minutes to 15 minutes so it’s not the end of the world, I’ve been on a 45-minute diversion before because of where some roadworks were at the time.

  8. Avatar photo Rob says:

    As I posted on the forums, my aunties mdu of albeit only 5 flat raised a enquiry with open reach as to why they have stopped providing fttp at the neighbours property. Appears it went to the mdu auto reply bot saying no dates set for their property yet despite having permission from the landlord (technically all the flat owners are directors of the company that owns the freehold)

    1. Avatar photo Concerned Citizen says:

      What area? There is a new internal project in few hotspot areas that is specifically starting to deal with the smaller flats 5-10. I should imagine they will get done in the next couple of months if they have landlord permission,

  9. Avatar photo Ad47uyk says:

    So glad we don’t have those monstrosities here. I think 4-5 floors is the highest flats we have here.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      I think you’re pretty safe from tall buildings in Hereford. They’re really more of a fit for cities that are cities due to size rather than merely having a cathedral.

      They’ve room for central business districts and tall buildings and many of them have young, diverse, decently quickly growing populations. Believe Hereford is pretty small, old, white and population barely budging so no need for tall buildings.

      I personally like newer tall buildings as long as they’re in the right places. They’re a great indicator of dynamism and growth.

  10. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Perhaps Hyperoptic’s comment should read.

    “We don’t want anything that looks like competition to our exclusive builds.”

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      If you can prove they’ve exclusivity in the contracts you might have a case there. If it’s more that Openreach don’t want to go through the rigmarole of negotiating with the freeholders / management agents then not so much. Hyperoptic had to strike deals to install their kit and as long as there’s nothing stopping Openreach from doing the same thing it’s all fair.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I would have thought it extremely unlikely that the government would grant wayleave to Openreach without also granting the same access to every other network at the same time. Therefore Hyperoptic would also be freed from having to obtain permission to install their networks so their complaint about Openreach having a near monopoly wouldn’t stack up so why are they objecting?

    3. Avatar photo Speedy says:

      I think Hyperoptic’s concern is that all of Openreach’s efforts so far have been linked to their existing wayleaves for copper – that would solely benefit Openreach. Opening access to every network is a new angle on an issue that’s been rumbling on for a few years and I can’t really see government agreeing to it. Afaik, Hyperoptic don’t ask for exclusive wayleaves so the objections wouldn’t be related to that.

    4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      If Hyperoptic or any other altnet wants to become a USO operator and agree to meet the coverage/performance thresholds that Openreach and KCOM have to meet, then maybe they can talk about fairness!

    5. Avatar photo Rubbish says:

      Hyperoptic don’t ever ask for exclusivity, and in any-case even if they ever did it would be unenforceable as there is primary legislation that over-rides it and forces freeholders to give access to any provider that asks.

      FWIW. I’m sure you already knew that.

  11. Avatar photo - says:

    This is pure lazyiness from OR, it is very possible to get into mdus there is existing legislation that forces freeholders to provide access. CityFibre, Virgin Media, Hyperoptic, Community Fibre among many others have proved this at scale each covering at least a million premises within MDUs, many have several million.

    One mans ‘unreasonable conditions’ is another mans ‘please do a competent, reasonable quality job, don’t unduly inconvenience my tenants, provide a RAMs and my insurance company requires X’.

    Openreach are consistently doing slapdash work in my patch at least, I say open reach, most often it is contractors who are not being managed and are paid the lowest rates going.

    You get what you pay for and openreaches contractors approach of ‘hand a minimally or untrained man on £40-50 per install a drill and get on with it’ yeilds the expected results. If I owned a flat block openreach doing an install without agreed standards upfront would be my worst nightmare.

  12. Avatar photo Steve says:

    The situation with Openreach & MDU’s is mainly due to the fact they are a little late to the party, and underestimated the challenge of gaining permissions to deploy in MDU’s

    Altnets have been working hard at this challenge for many years, and BT are only just waking up to it.

    Upgrading to fibre means a whole new network of cables, which is not a ‘minor’ upgrade

    What about the freeholders rights & leaseholders preferences

    What about risk, safety, whereabouts, asbestos registers, fire stopping etc

    The fact is you simply cannot waltz straight into an MDU & do as you like

    Rather than the back door, maybe Openreach should be considering to share infrastructure or Wayleave’s that the Altnets have invested time & money into securing.

    Our 4Fibre solution allows just that – unlike some sub standard (incomplete) solutions it is robust, segregated and useable by ant full fibre ISP.

    We have many thousands of MDU premises, deployed with multiple segregated, robust & serviceable lines


  13. Avatar photo Rahul says:

    One problem is that a wayleave agreement for an Altnet provider doesn’t guarantee wayleave being granted for Openreach FTTP.

    For example, I had problems getting wayleave agreement for Hyperoptic back in 2015 as a Hyperoptic Champion of my residential building I got 30+ people to register their interests in 6 months. But my Technical Services Manager still refused to grant Hyperoptic the permission to install their service. We desperately needed FTTP as we were on ADSL EO Line and the plan for FTTC simply remained unchanged for a very long time giving me no hope of Openreach showing any interest to upgrade us to FTTC never mind FTTP.

    Eventually an agreement was finally made with Community Fibre 6 years later! Even the Housing Estate Manager told me a few years prior this agreement that if they were going to make an agreement they’ll do it with another provider, not Hyperoptic. I didn’t believe him and thought this was just an excuse but eventually it happened.

    Another thing to remember is that Community Fibre also supply free broadband incentives for community centres and even the housing estate offices! This kinda helps convince with the wayleave process. Openreach FTTP have to probably offer a similar attractive deal to convince an agreement to be made.

    After-all it is not surprising that Openreach are so concerned about gaining a wayleave agreement. They delayed their roll-out for far too long and gave the chance for the Altnets to take full advantage! Now that Openreach are losing their existing FTTC and ADSL customers they are desperately trying to regain back their customers and they know it’s not going to work with existing FTTC packages.

    Unfortunately, they weren’t as desperate 5 years ago as they are now. Instead of upgrading us to FTTP from ADSL EO Line in October 2019 they gave us FTTC. They could’ve tried more intensively to get a wayleave agreement for FTTP and potentially keep customers than losing them to the Altnet(s).

    Lastly it is also worth mentioning that Altnets offer symmetrical gigabit packages that Openreach do not and that’s also another reason why it is somewhat easier for a wayleave agreement to be made in favour for an Altnet.
    I personally don’t think Hyperoptic and Community Fibre have much to worry about even if Openreach did roll out their service. Openreach packages tend to be much more expensive in general and do not offer symmetrical services even though you may have plenty of ISPs to choose from but then most of them are similarly expensive so you’d still prefer the Altnet if they are available to you.

  14. Avatar photo Trigod says:

    As someone who lives in a private flat in a council building and works for an alt net, I can say that this would be huge! My road is fully fibre, and the single dwelling properties in the area had FTTP, but my building and all the other council flats around me are still waiting four the council to give approval for ANYONE to install on our building. In an area where the average internet speed is 100mbps, I and my neighbours are stuck with a max of 34mbps, which drops out every time there is strong wind or rainy weather.

    From an altnet perspective, we are fighting with the councils to allow us to install on not only single dwelling properties but also MDU’s, we spent 3 years being promised over and over by councillors that they would help us get the ball rolling while spending the whole time “requesting” donations to public causes and local events.
    Then there’s the private landlords and property managers who never answer to us or their tenants who want our service, we have a HUGE backlog of potential customers who either have ancient, slow copper connections or extremely and needlessly expensive FTTP broadband through historic providers, but we cannot provide a service because someone sitting behind a desk somewhere doesn’t care.

    This change in the legislation, if done correctly could aid not just BT, but all fibre providers!

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