BT gets thumbs up from Ofcom to roll out new wholesale broadband pricing
BT has been given the all-clear to roll out its discounted wholesale full-fibre offer to broadband providers after the telecoms watchdog found the proposals were not anti-competitive.
BT’s network arm Openreach, which runs the UK’s only national broadband network, put forward plans for a pricing deal that would give lower prices to wholesale customers, such as Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone.
But this was only if they agreed to use mainly Openreach’s full-fibre products for new orders instead of its legacy copper products.
The plans – called Equinox 2 – were criticised by BT’s competitors, such as Virgin Media O2.
This comes after Altice, the French telecoms firm, said it will up its stake in BT to 24.5 per cent, but it “does not intend” to make a takeover bid.
An Ofcom spokesman said: “Our overriding objective is to bring better broadband to people across the UK, by promoting competitive investment in high-speed networks and making sure there’s a level playing field for all companies.
“With this in mind, and based on the evidence available to us, we don’t consider Openreach’s new pricing discounts to be anti-competitive.”
It said it had taken into account the impact of the pricing plans on consumers, rival broadband providers and so-called altnets – which are new fibre builders.
Ofcom added that by not blocking the plans, BT is able to “engage in network-based competition, without compromising our objective of promoting investment in gigabit-capable networks”.
Openreach has also pledged not to change its pricing under the plans until at least March 31 2026, according to Ofcom.
Katie Milligan, chief commercial officer at Openreach, said: “This is good news for customers as it means lower prices and long-term certainty – encouraging the switch to faster, more reliable broadband connections.
“It’s also good news for the UK, as it supports our continued multibillion-pound investment in upgrading the country’s broadband infrastructure.”
But the pricing deal has raised concerns among some rivals about Openreach’s move to discuss and develop discounts with retail providers.
“Having carefully assessed information from providers and altnets, we do not have concerns that warrant further investigation at this time,” Ofcom said.
Ofcom had delayed its final decision that was due in March, which put back Openreach’s plans to launch the new pricing structure on April 1.
Ofcom said at the time of postponing the decision that it was concerned by remarks made in a newspaper report by BT boss Philip Jansen that its Openreach fibre rollout would “end in tears” for rivals, and that it needed more time to take into account responses to its probe.
Holly Williams – Press Association