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Superfast broadband gets Ofcom competition boost

Ofcom promotes superfast broadband investment

Ofcom promotes fibre broadband competition

Ofcom promotes fibre broadband competition

BT must open its fibre broadband network to rivals such as TalkTalk and Sky to promote competition and investment, broadband watchdog Ofcom announced today.

In its announcement, Ofcom stated that superfast broadband network will ‘drive new benefits’ for UK consumers and businesses.

It went on to outline the decisions it has made to promote competition and investment in the future of UK superfast broadband services over a fibre network.

Broadband rivals to access BT fibre network

Ofcom has announced two principal interventions to promote competition and investment in superfast broadband.

Promoting competition

BT must let other broadband providers – such as Sky or TalkTalk – use its own fibre network to offer competing services to consumers. BT’s wholesale broadband product will be known as VULA (virtual unbundled local access). Ofcom says that the aim of this is to maximise innovation by broadband providers and the scope for differentiation, rather than broadband customers being limited to a narrow choice of superfast broadband services. 

However, because BT’s investment in superfast broadband has an element of risk, Ofcom plans to allow BT flexibility when setting prices for VULA. 

Promoting investment

From June 2011, BT will be required to let other providers use its duct and pole infrastructure to deploy their own fibre network. This means that rival broadband providers will be able to roll out their own fibre network somewhere BT has not yet done so, rather than waiting for BT. 

Innovation and competitive pricing key to superfast broadband take up

Which? broadband expert Ceri Stanaway says: ‘Ofcom’s decisions ensure that broadband customers will have a genuine choice of superfast broadband providers and products rather than being restricted to just one or two providers. TalkTalk has reportedly already announced plans to provide broadband services over BT’s fibre network.

‘Innovation and competitive pricing will be crucial to persuade many prospective customers of the benefits of upgrading to superfast broadband. 

‘Although people are increasingly using their broadband services for data-heavy tasks such as watching online TV or online gaming, many UK broadband users still primarily use their broadband service for simple tasks such as web browsing and emails and are unlikely to perceive much advantage in upgrading to high speeds.’

You can find out more about how to choose the right broadband service for you in the free Which? guide on how to get the best broadband deal.

Superfast broadband – BT and Virgin Media plans

BT has already started rolling out its fibre broadband network which currently covers more than 1.5 million homes. BT plans to extend its fibre network to provide broadband speeds of either 40Mbps or 100Mbps to two-thirds of UK homes by 2015. BT’s own fibre broadband offering is known as BT Infinity. 

Virgin Media’s cable broadband – which also provides broadband over a fibre network – is available to around 50% of UK homes. Virgin Media’s maximum speed is currently 50Mbps, but it plans to launch a 100Mbps service soon. 

If you’re in the market for a new broadband deal, don’t forget speed is just one thing to consider. Find out how Which? members rated BT, Virgin Media and more than 20 other broadband providers for value for money, customer service and connection reliability in the Which? broadband review.

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