Britain’s ultrafast broadband network is in line for a significant upgrade with the opening of discussions between Vodafone and BT’sOpenreach with a view to establish a joint investment strategy to introduce ultrafast fibre-optic broadband around the country.
By pooling resources both providers believe they can fast track the replacement of outdated copper telephone lines with fibre-optic equivalents, bringing with it a host of speed and efficiency improvements for broadband customers along its length.
The cost of installing new lines has fallen but is still expected to run into billions of pounds, making the arrival of Voadafone and its additional war chest most welcome to Openreach which has thus far shouldered the investment burden alone along with rival Virgin Media.
An alliance between Vodafone and Openreach raises the prospect of overtaking Virgin as a provider of high-speed internet.
Openreach is currently mandated by Ofcom to offer equal access to all customers; including Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk, but according to The Telegraph Vodafone is demanding a period of exclusivity as reward for any investment.
An Openreach spokesperson said: “We’ve said before that a new, more independent Openreach is open to co-investment models.
“We’re currently consulting with all of our wholesale customers on the case for a large-scale ‘full fibre’ broadband network. As part of this we’re asking about their potential interest in different forms of commitment to new Fibre-to-the-Premises infrastructure, including co-investment.”
It is thought likely that the regulator can be convinced to relax regulations to unlock investment and allow Britain to remain competitive with international peers.