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Outside Plant and Broadband Public Policy

Here's some interesting insights from the Digital Britain interim report. The civil engineering work required to deploy next-generation access (NGA) infrastructure is a significant part of the business case for a major broadband deployment project, and some estimates put it as high as 80 percent of the overall cost.

Although it is not the only remedy, providing access to existing ducts, and therefore reducing the cost of deploying fiber for Communication Providers (CPs), is one solution that may lower the barriers to entry for CPs, and therefore support meaningful service provider competition.

Ofcom commissioned Analysys Mason to survey a number of UK cities and towns to assess the level of occupancy of the telecoms duct infrastructure, and to investigate the practical issues that CPs may face if deploying new fiber cables -- using the incumbent service provider's existing infrastructure.

The main objective of the survey was to make an indicative assessment of the duct infrastructure to help Ofcom determine whether or not duct access was a viable option in the UK for CPs to deploy new fiber cables in access and backhaul networks.

The key conclusions of their study are:

- Just over half of the duct ends surveyed have at least 42 percent of unoccupied space, 22 percent of surveyed duct-ends were full, and 26 percent of surveyed duct-ends were empty.

- Unoccupied space in the duct infrastructure network is not evenly distributed across the different sections of the network, and is more likely to be congested in the access part of the network than in the backhaul network.

- Unoccupied space in the duct infrastructure network is not evenly distributed across the different towns/cities, and cities where recent civil engineering work was carried out are more likely to have more available space.

- Unoccupied duct-end space will not directly translate into usable duct space for a CP willing to use the ducts, for a number of related reasons -- explained in the report.

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