BT in Ofcom clash over ‘dark fibre’

BT has clashed with Ofcom after the regulator told it to open up its high-speed “dark fibre” network to direct access by rivals, under proposals to promote competition in the £2 billion “leased line” data market for businesses.

The telecoms giant is already required to sell wholesale leased line products, using its fibre-optic cables as well as its network equipment, to other operators.

But the new proposals would allow the other companies to access the cables directly with their own equipment, rather than relying on BT’s.

BT said the way the market currently operates already created a level playing field and the new plans would favour a few large companies to the disadvantage of others. It also said the proposals would undermine investment.

The telecoms giant has been facing flak from competitors over the way it controls the lion’s share of the UK’s telecoms network through its Openreach division, which some rivals say ought to be split off. TalkTalk welcomed today’s announcement.

Ofcom said the proposals were designed to promote “competition and innovation” in the leased line market - dedicated high-speed data links used by large businesses and mobile and broadband operators to transfer data on their networks.

The lines also provide links for schools, universities, libraries and other public bodies.