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BT will have to open up business network to rivals, watchdog says

Regulator Ofcom says fully opening up the network will help increase overall investment in high-speed broadband and 5G mobile

BT's rivals can currently use its telegraph poles and underground ducts

BT Group (LON:BT.A) will have to give rivals increased access to its infrastructure network, under proposed new rules set out by regulator Ofcom on Friday.

Other telecoms companies such as Virgin Media, Talktalk Telecom Group PLC (LON:TALK) and Cityfibre can currently use the telegraph poles and underground ducts owned by BT’s Openreach infrastructure arm to lay their own high-speed broadband fibre for residential and small-business customers.

READ: BT keeps dividend unchanged and ups fibre investment target

Ofcom said it will now force Openreach to allow access to the high-speed data connections used by large organisations, meaning all of its infrastructure will now be opened up to the market.

This should improve the business case and provided more certainty for BT’s rivals to invest in cutting-edge, full fibre and 5G networks, the regulator said.

BT and Openreach, which have resisted giving full access to business networks in the past, are not expected to try and object to the draft proposals before Ofcom publishes its final decisions next month.

“We share Ofcom’s desire to improve service across the industry,” a spokesperson from Openreach said on Friday, adding that “we recognise that unrestricted access is a natural next step so we had volunteered to get on with that, ahead of Ofcom’s original schedule”.

READ: BT’s dividend is safe…for now

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom's competition group director, said: “The amount of internet data used by people in the UK is expanding by around half every year. So, we'll need faster, more reliable connections for our homes, offices and mobile networks.”

Ofcom also said it plans to launch a consultation in December on a combined review of residential and business telecoms market regulations for the five years from 2021.

BT shares, already down 9% since releasing its final results earlier this month, were little moved on the day at 198.7p

Quick facts: BT Group PLC

Price: 171 GBX

Market: LSE
Market Cap: £169.89 m

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