Ofcom abandons dark fibre access plans

Ofcom has abandon plans to require BT Openreach to offer a 1Gbps leased line product to third party communications providers (CPs).

At present, leased lines are sold on a wholesale basis, meaning the line and the equipment used to power the connection are bundled.

Ofcom’s proposal would have seen the likes of TalkTalk, Three, Vodafone and others able to ‘light up’ dark fibre cables (i.e. fibre not currently in use) with their own equipment, giving them greater control.


However this had been opposed by CityFibre, Virgin Media and other infrastructure builders on the grounds that it discouraged investment in full fibre networks. Virgin Media will complete a £3 billion network expansion next year, while CityFibre, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic are also investing in FTTP networks.

BT threw its weight behind a successful appeal Competition Appeal Tribunal late last year which forced Ofcom to change its plans and led to the planned 1Gbps limit which would have been a temporary measure ahead of the next major business market review.

But although greater access to dark fibre would be welcomed by CPs, it was made clear to Ofcom that 1Gbps was not sufficient for their needs and that they would only use the product in low volumes because it was not futureproof.

This means the plan has been shelved until at least next year, with Ofcom set to return to the issue in the review after CPs told it that a product with higher capacity would be of greater use.

“We have therefore decided not to introduce the restricted dark fibre remedy for the period up to March 2019, but instead to consider the potential for a dark fibre remedy as part of our further market review,” said Ofcom. “We continue to believe dark fibre can play an important role in promoting competition in leased lines – supporting better broadband and mobile services.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.