Sky has called for the “structural separation” of Openreach, the BT division which owns and maintains the UK’s largest home phone and broadband network.
Although part of BT, Openreach must provide equal access to all telecoms providers and sells services to some of BT’s biggest rivals, including Sky and TalkTalk.
Other networks are owned by Virgin Media and KCOM, formerly known as Kingston Communications, which do not have to provide the same wholesale access to rivals as BT.
In recent weeks both Virgin Media and BT have promised further investment in their networks, boosting the number of customers able to access high-speed broadband.
Sky’s calls for a separation of BT and Openreach comes as telecoms regulator Ofcom announced a review of the UK’s digital communications market which is seeing increased convergence between fixed and mobile voice and data services.
Virgin Media and TalkTalk already offer ‘quad-play’ bundles of home phone, broadband, TV and mobile services and both Sky and BT have plans to launch their own mobile networks.
BT is also buying EE, currently the UK’s largest mobile operator, which will give it control over the prices paid by several popular virtual networks, including Virgin Mobile, who buy airtime from larger networks which they then rebrand and sell to their customers.
Ofcom says its review will cover “both fixed and wireless networks and services, and take account of alternative services delivered over the internet (‘over-the-top’).”
It said any new regulations emerging from the review would be designed “to promote competition and to support continued investment and innovation that can benefit consumers and businesses in the form of coverage, choice, price and quality of service.”
The review was welcomed by Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive of Sky, who said: “The sector is vital to the UK’s future but there are serious questions about whether the existing structure can deliver the infrastructure, innovation and choice that consumers and businesses need.”
“Structural separation of Openreach, the UK’s only nationwide broadband infrastructure, is at the heart of creating a sustainable industry; one that provides the capacity and incentive to invest whilst also harnessing the power of multiple competing retailers to drive higher take up and lower prices for customers.”
“Ofcom must now take the opportunity to address Openreach’s conflict of interest as a subsidiary of BT or risk extending the problems that are affecting the industry and its customers today.”
In a statement, BT said: “We welcome confirmation of this review, which was signalled by Ofcom last year.
“Ofcom has helped to create the world’s most competitive telecommunications market – one where prices are among the lowest while the speed and availability of superfast services leads Europe’s largest economies.
“Its rules do now need to be simplified and modified given the market has changed out of all recognition.
“The UK needs an updated regime which will promote yet further investment whilst ensuring all companies can compete on an equal footing. We look forward to engaging with Ofcom as it updates its rules to take into account the explosion in competition over the past decade.”