UK Regulator Mulls Broadband Market Liberalisation

16 November 2007

LONDON: British communications overseer Ofcom on Thursday published new proposals for the liberalisation of wholesale broadband services.

The issue, now out for consultation, is the removal of regulatory obligations in areas of the UK where strong competition is now a reality.

According to Ofcom: "The retail broadband market in the UK is already performing well, with healthy competition between a range of providers giving consumers choice.

"Broadband is available to 99.6% of UK households and more than 80% can choose between two or more wholesale providers. 65% of homes have the choice of four or more wholesale providers. In many areas consumers can choose between 8 providers."

It is against this background that Ofcom now proposes four distinct sub-national markets for wholesale broadband, according to the level of competition prevailing, to allow regulation to be tailored to local conditions

  1. Those areas covered by exchanges where BT is the only wholesale operator. This market covers 19.2% of UK premises.

  2. Areas covered by exchanges where there are two or three wholesale operators. This market covers 15.7% of UK premises.

  3. Areas covered by exchanges where there are four or more wholesale operators. This market covers 64.4% of UK premises.

  4. The city of Hull in which KCOM is the sole operator. This market covers 0.7% of UK premises.
Ofcom has found that KCOM's position in the Hull market gives it a dominant market position. The regulator reached a similar conclusion in relation to BT's position in Markets 1 and 2.

In those two markets Ofcom will continue to protect consumers by keeping existing rules designed to promote retail competition. These require KCOM and BT to open up their networks to other providers on a fair and equivalent basis and provide a wholesale product on which retail services can be built.

So far as Market 3 is concerned, Ofcom believes the supply of wholesale broadband services is increasingly competitive and that no organisation enjoys significant market power there. Consumers have sufficient choice and are therefore protected by competition.

Full details of the Ofcom proposals can be viewed by clicking here.

Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff