Wednesday 8 January 2020 12:36 pm

Ofcom plans to ‘supercharge’ rollout of full-fibre broadband

Ofcom will “supercharge” British investment in full-fibre broadband by encouraging more competition in cities and supporting BT to roll out faster speeds in rural areas.

In a new five-year plan set out today, Britain’s telecoms regulator proposed the introduction of different regulatory regimes for rural and urban areas.

Read more: Broadband speeds are increasing but rural towns lag behind

Charges for rural and urban provision of fibre broadband are currently broadly similar, but upgrading rural homes costs far more than urban ones.

“These plans will help fuel a full-fibre future for the whole country,” said Ofcom interim chief executive Jonathan Oxley.

“We’re removing the remaining roadblocks to investment and supporting competition, so companies can build the networks.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to connect all UK homes to “gigabit speed” internet as part of his campaign to become leader of the Conservatives last year.

Johnson has since introduced a £5bn subsidy to connect the most rural 20 per cent of the country to faster fibre broadband.

Ofcom also said it would ease regulation of the UK’s ageing copper broadband network in areas where full-fibre coverage is rolled out to reduce costs to providers and to encourage customers to switch to faster networks.

BT, which owns and operates the UK’s Openreach network, welcomed the regulator’s announcement. 

“We welcome the direction of today’s consultation from Ofcom, which is a significant step forward towards a widely shared ambition to fibre up the whole of the UK,” said chief executive Philip Jansen.

BT shares rose 1.7 per cent following the announcement to trade at 195.3p.

“These measures are an important step forward in providing the long-term certainty and clarity network investment requires,” said a spokesperson for Virgin Media.

Read more: Negotiating a better broadband deal ‘could save £120 per year’

Talktalk chief executive Tristia Harrison said the company supported the goal of “accelerating full fibre roll-out in Britain”, but added: “A competitive market is the only way to deliver this goal.”

“It’s essential the regulatory environment allows competition and investment to thrive. Ofcom must avoid raising wholesale prices too early and only do so when competition has been established,” she said.