by Caroline Hughes

On 26 July 2017, the Competition Appeals Tribunal “quashed” Ofcom’s Business Connectivity Market Review (BCMR), meaning that Openreach are no longer required to make Dark Fibre available – previously planned for launch from October 2017. The repercussions of this will be felt deeply by those who, for many years, have fought for greater access to the incumbent operator’s ageing infrastructure. But could this ruling be a blessing in disguise?

As eyes naturally turn back to alternative network builders, could this pave the way for more widespread infrastructure competition? Could it even prompt a decision from Openreach to finally deliver dark fibre willingly? In a fascinating twist of irony, Ofcom’s failure to gain the Tribunal’s support could in fact end up delivering for our Industry and its end customers, the competitive market place they claim to have been championing through their rules in the first place.

Whether Openreach still launch a Dark Fibre product, and under what terms, remains to be seen of course. But let’s remember that this is an outcome their lawyers have fought hard for; born from a dogged determination to protect a high margin, high-bandwidth managed Ethernet services business rather than find a way (and they had the option before any regulatory intervention took place) to willingly meet the urgent needs of the customers they were set up to serve.

A predictable shockwave?

This news will be a shock to some, but the outcome was not wholly unexpected by those close to the lawsuit that’s been rumbling on. Putting legal arguments, rationale and potential for appeals aside, the ruling clearly deals a major blow of uncertainty to any carrier, service provider or mobile network operator who’s been planning their future around Openreach’s pending Dark Fibre Access (DFA) product launch and pricing.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Times are changing in the UK telecoms industry though and the rise of alternative infrastructure providers offers a choice that is sometimes still overlooked in favour of the obvious, incumbent option. At CityFibre we’ve provided wholesale dark fibre for years, and on far more flexible and attractive operational and commercial terms than Openreach’s DFA product was due to offer.

When we began providing Dark Fibre in 2011, our footprint was limited. But those early days built vital experience and helped us refine our delivery processes while establishing deep expertise in everything from simple on-net provision through to the most complex new network builds.

Today, CityFibre is a passionate team operating a well-oiled machine. Our independent duct and fibre network assets are available at density in 42 major towns and cities. Plus, we’re willing to build more. We’re fully funded for 50 cities – with an ambition to work with even more anchor partners to hit 100 by 2020. We’re not asset-precious and we offer dark fibre across our long-distance network too – something that was never even on the table at Openreach.

Putting spades in the ground to meet fresh demand for full-fibre infrastructure is what we do. What we build when that happens is an enviable, modern, capacity-rich network where fibre routes are not dictated by exchange locations and where handover options can be flexed to support exactly what our partners need.

For all these reasons and many more, CityFibre represents a very real alternative for those who aren’t prepared to park their dark-fibre-fuelled plans and are willing to consider that blessings often come in disguise and that Openreach – even if it delivers DFA – is not the only game in town.

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