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Ofcom is not giving up on its dark fibre quest

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BT/Openreach has been accused of guarding its network for some time, and the latest consultation from Ofcom is another chapter in the watchdog’s mission to break the market dominance.

Despite BT’s legal team hitting back at Ofcom in July, Dark Fibre Access (DFA) is back in action with the launch of the new consultation. Let’s hope this time the Ofcom bods have got their own house in order after muddling market definitions was its downfall on the first assault.

“We consider in this consultation whether to add a requirement on BT to provide dark fibre in addition to the other remedies imposed in the BCMR Temporary Conditions Statement,” the document reads. “As part of this dark fibre consultation, we are also consulting on the market definition and SMP assessment set out in the BCMR Temporary Conditions Statement.”

The idea of course is simple. Ofcom’s believes BT is ready and able to provide dark fibre products, which would make the telco space in the UK better for everyone. Whether it is to improve productive efficiencies by allowing providers to reduce equipment costs, or enhancing dynamic efficiencies by offering telecoms providers more scope to innovate, there does seem to be arguments in Ofcom’s favour. Of course, another advantage for Ofcom is that it would make regulating the market simpler.

The new approach is as such; Ofcom has split contemporary interface symmetric broadband origination (CISBO) services into two areas to tighten up definitions. Lumping everything together is perhaps one of the reasons for the downfall, but of course that will be up to the courts to decide. Ofcom now looks at CISBO as two separate areas bandwidth up to 1 Gbps, and everything else above it.

Since giving the Ofcom bods a lesson in the courts, BT/Openreach has introduced an alternative Optical Spectrum Access (OSA) Filter Connect, which gives telcos access via an Openreach managed service, though Ofcom does not believe this is a suitable alternative to its own DFA idea. There might have been some initial good feedback for BT’s OSA, but this might be down to a ‘better than nothing’ mentality. But just because it is better, doesn’t mean that it is the best option for the telco industry.

“We’re very surprised by Ofcom’s decision and disappointed given the clarity of the CAT judgement and Openreach’s commitment to developing new, alternative products which can meet the demand for Dark Fibre,” said an Openreach spokesperson.

Ofcom is clearly not going to go away. BT/Openreach clearly wants to hold onto its dominant position in the market, and who wouldn’t want to. As with all of these arguments, it will probably end up in the courts before too long, and there is probably a logical solution in the middle somewhere. But of course it will take a while to find that logical middle position.


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