We have considered the impact that BT’s FTTP deployment plans could have on the options available to CPs for delivering voice services to end-users. Current regulations concerning copper wire access require Openreach to offer CPs both the option to resell BT’s wholesale voice access service, Wholesale Line Rental (“WLR”), and the option to build their own networks by deploying voice and broadband access equipment in BT’s exchanges and using the fully-unbundled local loop product, Metallic Path Facilities (“MPF”). The wholesale options for delivering voice services using FTTP are at an early stage of development. Openreach has recently consulted on options for supporting voice services using FTTP access, and a number of significant technical and commercial questions still need to be resolved before a clear roadmap can be agreed with industry.
The development of wholesale voice products using FTTP raises important questions about the options that could be available to support effective and sustainable competition in services that include voice where next-generation access technologies are used. For example, if BT produces a product similar to its current Wholesale Line Rental (“WLR”) product using next-generation access, it would be important to consider whether it should also produce a more upstream wholesale product which could be used to support voice service provision and, if so, what that product would be. Further, if BT does produce an upstream product, it would also be important to consider whether it should be required to consume it in producing any next-generation access product similar to WLR. A question analogous to the latter was considered in the context of the copper network at the time BT’s Undertakings were first discussed, and Ofcom concluded at that time that BT should not be required to consume an upstream input in producing WLR (-6-). However, consideration of the options in the context of next-generation access could lead to different conclusions. Key considerations would include assessment of the costs and technical feasibility of different options, the likely impact on competition and implications for consumers both in terms of migration from today’s products as well as future retail pricing structures. We intend to consider these questions, initially within the scope of our current review of the wholesale local access market.
In light of the considerations we set out in this document of the impacts that the proposed variation would be likely to have on consumers, on competition and on BT’s Undertakings, we are inclined, subject to the conclusions of this Consultation, to agree to this proposed variation to BT’s Undertakings.