Ofcom outlines views to define and regulate UK fibre markets

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UK communications regulator, Ofcom has set out its initial views on how to define geographic markets from 2021, when carrying out the next review of wholesale telecoms networks. This is as part of its long-term plans to support investment in fibre networks.

By spring 2021, Ofcom plans to have regulation in place that varies by geographic area. To promote greater certainty for investors, this new regulation will be in place for at least five years and will replace the Business Connectivity Market Review and Wholesale Local Access Review.

The regulator said: ‘We expect to see significant investment in new, competing fibre networks. But investment and competition will vary by geography. So, we intend to take a flexible approach to regulation, reflecting how many different competing fibre companies are present in a particular geographic area.’

In competitive areas where there are at least two existing networks in addition to Openreach, Ofcom said that it would consider whether the alternative networks make those areas effectively competitive. Where this is the case, it would deregulate.

In potentially competitive areas where at least one alternative network is already present; an alternative network provider has announced plans to build; or there is potential for entry, the focus will be on promoting investment and competitive entry.

Non-competitive areas with no alternative networks that are unlikely to see future network deployment at scale will see encouraged investment by Openreach while protecting consumers from high prices.

Ofcom said: ‘We intend to set out our initial approach to remedies in Spring 2019; and by Autumn 2019, we plan to consult on a full set of market proposals, including market definition, market power and remedies.’

The regulator also recently announced the two companies it proposed to make the UK’s broadband universal service providers (see Ofcom proposes BT, KCOM as UK USO providers).

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