New proposals could give broadband firms access to utilities infrastructure

The government is seeking views on a proposal that would give broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground utility ducts to help them expedite the roll-out of next-generation broadband.

Under the proposals, broadband network operators would be able to house their equipment on infrastructure owned and used by other companies, such as utility ducts, poles, masts, pipes, inspection chambers, manholes, cabinets and antenna installations.

Currently civil works, in particular installing new ducts and poles, can make up as much as 80% of the costs to industry of building new gigabit-capable broadband networks.

Digital infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman said the proposals make "both economic and common sense".

"We’ve seen progress with improved access to Openreach’s ducts and poles, but other telecoms companies have large networks that are not easily accessible. We want them, and utility companies, to do more to open these up and help speed up getting next-generation broadband to people across the UK," he said.

Research from the National Infrastructure Commission suggests infrastructure re-use could lead to an £8 billion cost saving for companies deploying gigabit-capable broadband, and could significantly reduce the time and cost it takes to roll out gigabit-capable broadband.

Clare MacNamara, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, the UK government’s advisory forum for telecoms policy, said: "It is important for the Broadband Stakeholder Group that the right measures are in place to support UK fibre and gigabit rollout in order for industry to meet the target of nationwide availability by 2025. We therefore welcome Government’s review of the regulations."

The Call for Evidence on the Review of the Access to Infrastructure Regulations closes on 4th September 2020:

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