February 23, 2018 / 9:23 AM / 8 months ago

Britain's Ofcom caps prices BT can charge rivals for use of fast broadband

LONDON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Britain's telecoms regulator will cap the price BT can charge rivals to use its fast broadband service and make it easier for all providers to use the company's infrastructure to build their own networks to boost the roll-out of fibre.

Full fibre broadband is many times faster - and around five times more reliable - than today's superfast internet services, but it is available to just 3 percent of Britain's homes and businesses, Ofcom said on Friday.

It hopes that making it easier for rivals to access the former monopoly's telegraph poles and underground tunnels will speed up the delivery of new networks at cheaper prices.

Companies including Vodafone, TalkTalk, as well as BT itself, have announced investments in new fibre networks in recent months.

Ofcom said it would cap the amount BT's Openreach network could charge rivals to use its fibre-copper product, which generally offers speeds up to 40 megabits a second, at 11.92 pounds ($16.66) a month to help rivals attract customers while they build their own networks.

The level is more generous to BT than the 11.23 pounds Ofcom proposed last year.

BT's shares were trading up 4.2 percent at 242 pence in early deals on Friday, topping the FTSE 100 index.

Digital minister Matt Hancock said Ofcom's measures would be instrumental in supporting full fibre roll-out by promoting competition and ensuring widespread availability of services.

TalkTalk, which uses the Openreach network, said it was good news for consumers, competition and investment.

"Ofcom's move not only protects customers in today's market, but also ensures Openreach and others are encouraged to invest in the full fibre networks of tomorrow," a spokesman said.

$1 = 0.7155 pounds Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Edmund Blair

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