More people getting better broadband thanks to Ofcom rules

24 May 2019

Ultrafast broadband can be five times more reliable than older, standard broadband, and fast enough to allow lots of people in the same home to stream films in ultra-high definition at the same time, or make seamless video calls.

Thousands of homes and businesses now have access to this technology thanks to Ofcom rules designed to make it easier and more affordable to roll out better broadband networks.

Last year we set new rules to support investment in fibre networks. Under these rules, Openreach, which maintains the UK’s main broadband network, must let rival companies use its telegraph poles and underground ducts to lay their own fibre cables to residential customers. This access can cut the upfront cost of building full-fibre networks by around half.

Several firms – including Virgin Media, TalkTalk and CityFibre – are using these rules to connect thousands of homes and businesses to faster, more reliable broadband.

For example, Virgin Media rolled out full fibre in Pontyclun, Wales, by using Openreach’s ducts. This follows a trial last year in Lincolnshire, where Virgin Media used an Openreach duct to cut the amount of time and money it took lay its cables.

Meanwhile, TalkTalk has been trialling the use of ducts and poles as it seeks to roll out full fibre to three million premises by 2025. Between them, competing providers are using around 12,000 Openreach telegraph poles and 2,500 km of underground duct.

More people across the UK are set to benefit from Ofcom’s rules. Broadband provider toob recently secured funding for a full-fibre rollout programme, and expects to use Openreach’s infrastructure to achieve this.

Hyperoptic also has plans to use them as it rolls out over 5,000 km of fibre in order to reach five million premises by 2025, while providers Glide and NextGen Access have used them as part of their full-fibre rollout.

Ofcom has been looking at ways we could further improve access to Openreach’s infrastructure, to help strengthen the business case for companies laying new fibre cables. Today, we have announced a package of measures that would give these companies greater flexibility when building their networks.

In future, our measures would mean that they will be able to use Openreach’s ducts and poles for a wider variety of business cases, increasing the scope for them to invest in cutting-edge, ultrafast broadband.

Alan Bristow, Build Director for South of England and South Wales at Virgin Media, said: “We will consider using their ducts again so that more areas of the UK get a much-deserved broadband boost from Virgin Media.”

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, said: “The amount of internet data used by people in the UK is expanding by around half every year. So, we’ll need faster, more reliable connections to our homes and offices.

“Our measures are designed to support the UK’s digital future by providing investment certainty for continued competitive investment in fibre and 5G networks across the country.”