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BT, Fujitsu in final pole dance rehearsals

Pair get ducts in a row for infrastructure sharing

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BT is still ironing out "points of detail" with Fujitsu over the national telco's pricing and product development plans to open up its duct and pole infrastructure (PIA).

The telco finally caved in to regulatory and ISP pressure by bringing down the prices of PIA for rival operators to gain access to its pole and telegraph infrastructure last month, and the industry cautiously welcomed the move.

But, as noted just last week by Fujitsu's biz unit director Bill Mackenzie – who was speaking at a Westminster e-forum event – "lumps and bumps" remained during a PIA trial that was conducted in Greasby on the Wirral with BT's Openreach team.

Mackenzie said Fujitsu had welcomed BT's "movement with pricing", adding that the Japanese tech giant felt the costing was "now closer to where we need it to be".

But, Mackenzie – who started his telco career at BT in 1977 and only moved to Fujitsu in 2010 – warned that there was "lots of work still to be done".

Challenges include affordability, demand, the speed of procurement and timing and, significantly, "PIA uncertainties".

Mackenzie also argued that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is responsible for overseeing the rollout of "superfast" broadband to citizens across the land, had little time to reach Jeremy Hunt's 2015 target to have the fastest network in Europe.

At the event, BT's strategy director Sean Williams said the company was undergoing a "collaborative dialogue with Fujitsu".

He added that "BT is the not the only provider" of fibre technology. "There will be other winners of this process," Williams said.

That process is of course the one involving a £530m pot of cash – most of which has already been allocated to local authorities and the Scottish government. BT, Fujitsu and other comms outfits will be bidding for that money.

Ofcom is hoping that competitors of BT will be in a stronger position to secure some of those funds to help the likes of Fujitsu and its strategic partners – Virgin Media and TalkTalk – to deploy their networks in the so-called "final third" of the country.

That lump of land is made up of mainly rural areas where BT couldn't find a compelling business case to invest in upgrading infrastructure.

See, we're all friends here. Right, friend?

BT's Openreach wing, in a joint statement with Fujitsu, said today that a duct and pole-sharing trial was progressing well.

Last week the Japanese company tested fibre-to-the-premises technology in the Wirral, which was deployed using Openreach's PIA.

BT said it planned to start flogging its duct and pole products to rival telcos on a wholesale basis later this month.

“We’ve pulled out all the stops to make sure our products fit the needs of our customers, so I have been delighted by the positive feedback we’ve had from Fujitsu UK and others," said BT Openreach boss Liv Garfield.

"Pole and duct access will enable communications providers to deliver superfast broadband speeds in areas outside the existing planned commercial footprint, so we felt it was important to launch the products as soon as possible.”

Fujitsu's European telecoms chief, Andy Stevenson, broadly agreed with Garfield's enthusiastic statement.

"I’m delighted to announce that the first of our triallists are now live on our trial network, and we’re proud to be the first communications provider in the UK to offer service through this route to market," he said, before adding:

"Whilst there are still some points of detail we’re working through ahead of commercial launch, we’ve been reassured by Openreach’s collaborative approach towards pricing and product development, which gives us the confidence to move forward.”

BT told The Register that those "points of detail" were "minor operational" matters such as wayleave negotiations. We asked Fujitsu for an explanation but it hadn't returned our request for comment at time of writing. ®

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