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UK broadband competition reaches new milestone

25th April 2013 Print

The level of competition in the UK broadband market has reached a new milestone, Ofcom has announced.
The number of ‘unbundled' lines, where communications providers offer services to households using BT's copper telephone network, has reached 9 million.
Competition is also taking hold in the new market for ‘superfast' broadband, which is most often delivered over fibre optic cables to the street cabinet, and from there to the premises over copper.
Fibre deployment and investment is expected to increase rapidly over the coming months. Virgin's network already provides superfast broadband services to more than 2m households, while BT's roll-out of fibre broadband is passing 100,000 new premises per week and has so far reached around 15m. The BT network is available for many providers, including BT Retail, to sell broadband services to consumers, ensuring competition in a fast-growing market.
There are now around 80 providers other than BT Retail either trialling or offering fibre broadband, between them serving more than a quarter of a million customers.
By November 2012, 13% of residential broadband connections were superfast, more than doubling from 5% in November 2011.
How unbundling changed broadband
In 2005, Ofcom agreed a set of undertakings with BT Group. These required BT to set up a new division, Openreach, to provide services to rivals. Together with a requirement on BT to provide ‘local loop unbundling', this has led to a significant increase in competition in retail broadband provided over the copper phone network - which is now capable of supporting speeds of up to 24Mbit/s.
Today's milestone of nine million unbundled lines represents a 70-fold increase since 2005, when there were just 123,000 unbundled lines in the UK and the majority of people could not access unbundled services.
Competition also means lower bills for consumers. At the end of 2005, UK consumers were paying on average £23.60 a month (excluding VAT) for a broadband service delivered over a copper phone line. Today they are paying around £13.11 for the same service.

Competition in a fibre future
Ofcom's regulatory framework is designed to promote competition in the market for superfast broadband, which provides speeds of 30Mbit/s and above.
In 2010, Ofcom introduced new requirements on BT to make its physical infrastructure available to those wishing to lay parallel fibre networks, while also requiring a ‘virtual' form of unbundling that allows competitors to offer superfast broadband over BT's fibre network. Ofcom has recently commenced a new review of fixed access markets to ensure an appropriate regulatory framework for the future.