Sky Seeks Code Powers to Support New UK PIA and SLU Broadband Trials - ISPreview UK
Ofcom has proposed to grant Code Powers to BSkyB Ltd. (Sky Broadband) in order to both make it easier for them to maintain and develop their core fibre optic network (e.g. quicker approval for street works) and to support trials of new solutions, such as a Passive Infrastructure Access (PIA) and Sub-Loop Unbundling (SLU) related broadband services.

As a quick reminder, Sub-Loop Unbundling (SLU) allows ISPs to build and control their own Street Cabinets, often right next door to one of BT’s (e.g. Rutland Telecom, Digital Region and others have used this method, usually in rural areas). Sky are also known to be calling for a semi-similar solution known as SLU Bitstream, which is effectively a fully unbundled (LLU) style of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) product (here).

Meanwhile Passive Infrastructure Access (PIA) allows rival operators to make use of BTOpenreach’s existing cable ducts and telegraph poles in order to run their own fibre optic services, which can at present only be used for serving residential premises (not a problem for Sky, which is predominantly focused on that sector). One standard condition of the PIA product is that the operator must have Code Powers.

In addition, Sky are also working alongside TalkTalk and Cityfibre to deploy a 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in the city of York, with two more cities to follow (here). The provider is also busy conducting several smaller FTTH/P trials, such as the one they have in Basingstoke (here).
Ofcoms Statement on Sky’s Code Powers Application

The Applicant has suggested that it intends to investigate ways of creating efficiencies in its delivery of superfast fibre broadband services. It believes that Code Powers will enable it to build out further network infrastructure as an alternative to relying on existing network options controlled by third parties.

The Applicant also asserts that existing and future customers may benefit from new or improved services that may be made available as a result of any future PIA and SLU trials that it undertakes.

The Applicant has suggested that these trials will help inform future decisions on broader fibre network activities across the United Kingdom both independently and with infrastructure partners where the trials demonstrate financial viability and the ability to deliver a better service to customers more efficiently.

In the event that the Applicant’s trials were successful, its electronic communications network may serve further benefit to the public by allowing further competition with BT (Openreach). For the above reasons, Ofcom considers that granting the Applicant Code powers would benefit the public.
On top of that there’s also a curious administrative aspect to Sky’s application. Sky currently operates a fibre optic network across the United Kingdom using fibre owned by its subsidiary, BSkyB Telecommunications Services Limited (BTS), and third parties. This is largely to help fuel its broadband network’s capacity needs.

Funnily enough BTS already has Code Powers, although BSkyB wants to have the same powers applied more generally to its own name rather than BTS. Apparently Sky “believes that it will not be practicable for it to maintain this network without the benefit of Code powers as it will be undertaking operations and maintenance activities in its own name.”

The consultation will run until 13th October 2014 and is almost certain not to be opposed.

Companies/Persons with Code powers may:

• Construct and maintain infrastructure on public land (streets) without needing to obtain a specific street works licence to do so;

• Benefit from certain immunities from the Town and Country Planning legislation; and
• Apply to the Court in order to obtain rights to execute works on private land in the event that agreement cannot be reached with the owner of that land.