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Openreach offers duct-off providers 'OSA Filter' instead of Dark Fibre Access

Part of the opening of the network

By Kat Hall

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Openreach has today offered its communication providers an alternative to the Ofcom-proposed Dark Fibre Access (DFA) product, which a court ruling slapped down three months ago.

In July the High Court's Competition Appeals Tribunal ruled that Ofcom had made a series of errors when it drew up the rules for a new market in unlit fibre, forcing it back to the drawing board. The DFA product would have allowed CPs to gain "physical access" to the operator's existing fibre optic cables.

The firm said it has since been viewing providers' Very High Bandwidth (VHB) connectivity requirements and has proposed the Optical Spectrum Access (OSA) product for ISPs, the OSA Filter Connect, to "meet industry needs".

The feature is intended to allow ISPs to connect their own active equipment alongside Openreach-managed wavelengths, instead of the physical DFA product. It's basically a service that is built over an existing Optical Spectrum Access bearer system – a dedicated optical fibre link used to move very large amounts of data between two locations.

The Filter Connect feature utilises spare capacity on the filter, which is a piece of kit that splits out different wavelengths of light which are carried over the fibre cable. This can be accessed by CPs to transmit data but will allow them manage how they do that themselves – so we'd imagine without being squeezed to pay additional charges from Openreach to do it for them. But of course it still falls far short of allowing providers to get their paws on the kit.

Openreach claims to give CPs scalability in the future at a competitive price.

Darren Wallington, GM for High Bandwidth and Passive Services at Openreach, said the filter connect feature will be a welcome addition to the high bandwidth portfolio and will address connectivity.

"Openreach believes and continues to believe that regulated dark fibre is inappropriate," he said.

He said the product would be attractive for all existing ethernet customers.

Asked if the company still has a long way to go in building relationships with its ethernet customers, after it was revealed that BT failed to compensate telecoms providers over delays, Wallington said the incident was "not its finest moment" but that it was on good terms with customers on optical networks. The company consequently promised to pay £300m in compensation to providers and a £42m fine to Ofcom.

The consultation document will run for one month until November 18. Wallington said so far CPs have been "very positive" about the plans, and has an "aspiration" to get it running by April 2018. ®

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