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Ofcom may fix price of BT business fibre broadband

Ofcom is to look into tighter regulation of BT fibre lines used for business broadband in the UK.

The communications regulator has decided that BT isn’t letting other broadband providers compete for very high speed fibre broadband for business users.

The Business Connectivity Market Review, published today, proposes that 1Gbps leased lines outside of London will be subject to regulation letting other businesses access its next-generation network:

“For products with speeds up to and including 1Gbit/s, Ofcom is proposing broadly to maintain existing regulation, including charge controls and a requirement on BT to provide access on a strictly non-discriminatory basis.”

However, this regulation will only apply outside of London and Hull. Around the capital, competition is deemed to be healthy enough for a “less strict form of price regulation” to be applied.

Ofcom is also considering “significantly extending the deregulated area for legacy high-speed networks westwards towards Heathrow,” having judged the ‘London’ area to have grown over the past decade.

Telecoms in the Hull area are provided by KCOM (aka Kingston Communications), and KCOM will face similar requirements to open its networks and control prices to BT int he rest of the UK.

There’s also a separate proposal to deregulate the market for long distance leased legacy lines – old-fashioned copper – in the face of demand having “declined significantly.” 

With fibre being touted as an essential tool for businesses, schools, universities and mobile network connections from cell towers to the national network, the thirst for the older copper connections is quickly drying up. Ofcom’s report points to an explosion in demand for mobile data – a 38-fold increase between 2007 and 2010.

In a separate report (Securing Long Term Benefits from Scarce Spectrum), Ofcom has predicted data demand to multiply by 300 between now and 2030. 

Further details on pricing are set to emerge over the coming weeks.