Virgin Media says it is keeping a close eye on BT's rollout of fibre broadband across the UK, due to concern that the companies' networks may be overlapping in some cases, which would constitute a breach of European legislation.
Under the continent's state aid rules, it is prohibited for a Next Generation Access (NGA) network to overbuild another, due to the fact that it would distort competition and also waste public finding, which in many cases helps to finance the rollout.
As such, Virgin Media says it is closely monitoring areas where it has rolled out its FTTN/DOCSIS3 services, to gauge whether Openreach’s FTTC solution is potentially covering the same area - something Virgin Media claims would be a waste of BT/BDUK investment.
One significant grey area is that postcodes are generally used to define network coverage, yet these can often cover a wide area, and as such there may be instances where Virgin Media’s network coverage only reaches certain parts of one location, but not others.
Nevertheless, Virgin Media says that having majority coverage in one area should be sufficient to prevent another network operator from expanding into the area and duplicating rollout.
The European ruling states that "where in the target area a significant proportion of citizens and business users are already adequately served, it has to be ensured that the public intervention does not lead to an undue overbuild of the existing infrastructure" - something that Virgin Media says BT must adhere to.
Speaking to ISPreview, Virgin Media Head of Public Affairs Daniel Butler commented: "We are working closely with councils up and down the country to help ensure public money supports areas where the market has not and has no plans to provide services. There is no need or value for the taxpayer in using public funds to build networks where they already exist."
In response, BT said that each rollout project has been assessed by BDUK to ensure "compatibility with the applicable legal framework" and has subsequently been approved, with local bodies continuing to monitor intervention areas and "maintaining dialogue" with stakeholders about any issues regarding deployment.