Ofcom tells BT to share telegraph poles

Getting broadband into your home can be done one of two ways. First, you can push it through the air. More and more networks are doing this and, as EE showed us fairly recently, it doesn’t matter too much on your location. The second option, of course, is via some sort of cable. Whether it be via cable broadband (remember my switch to Virgin?) or via copper cable from telegraph poles.

Those poles, though, belong to BT. In some areas there aren’t any, and BT have tunnels, ducts and pipework to feed cables through instead. However, you generally won’t find any other companies using these poles.

This means that it’s a real pain for other providers. Sure, competitors can put equipment in telephone exchanges now, but that “last mile”, as it’s called, is usually over BT-owned poles and wires. This has meant that, over the years, cable providers have had to dig up footpaths and generally make a bit of a mess to provide broadband to you.

Using those poles is something that would make the whole process so much easier. Just string up some cable, connect it to your house. Done. I even asked EE CEO Marc Allera about it last year as BT had just purchased the mobile network.

Now Ofcom wants the “Pole Potential” opening up to rival internet providers. This, it’s hoped, will allow more people to get full fibre broadband connections.

Full fibre is different to the majority of “fibre connections” out there. Those TV adverts mentioning “superfast fibre” or “fibre broadband” are, for the most part, only delivered in fibre-optic to the green cabinet near your house. The rest of that journey is via twisted-pair copper cable (ADSL / FTTC) or coaxial (Virgin Media FTTC). Full fibre is just that – fibre all the way – and is termed “FTTH” (Fibre To The Home) or “FTTP” (Fibre To The Premise). Ofcom, the communications regulator here in the UK, says that this is only available to 3% of UK homes and offices. This has to be ramped up, so it wants to force BT to let rivals install fibre on its telegraph poles and in underground tunnels.

BT responded by stating that..

Our ducts and poles have been open since 2011 and we have been sharing a digital map of this network for more than a year.

Details of that process can be found here, but it doesn’t allow poles to be used for wireless services, mobile backhaul, or core network deployment.