Ofcom has unveiled a package of measures to boost investment in full-fibre broadband networks across the UK.
According to the watchdog, full-fibre broadband is considerably faster and more reliable than today's superfast internet services.
However, it noted that the technology is currently available to just three per cent of homes and offices in Britain.
Ofcom is therefore introducing new rules as part of an effort to stimulate investment in full-fibre broadband nationwide and build on recent momentum in this area.
BT will be required to make its telegraph poles and underground tunnels open to competitors, so it is quicker and easier for rival firms to build their own full-fibre networks.
Ofcom noted that this approach is already being used by providers such as CityFibre and Virgin Media and could "fundamentally change the business case for building new networks".
Indeed, estimates suggest it could reduce the upfront costs of laying fibre cables by around half - from about £500 per property to £250.
Furthermore, Ofcom believes this requirement would cut the amount of time needed for digging works, which means fibre could be installed in some locations in just a few hours rather than several days.
The watchdog has also stated that BT's infrastructure division Openreach must repair faulty infrastructure and clear blocked tunnels where necessary, in order for other providers to access them.
Additionally, Openreach has been told to ensure there is space on its telegraph poles for extra fibre cables connecting homes to a rival's network, as well as release a 'digital map' of its duct and pole network, so other companies can plan where to lay fibre.
Meanwhile, Ofcom will not regulate the prices of Openreach's fastest wholesale superfast broadband products, including its new full-fibre services, to incentivise operators to build full-fibre networks. Protecting customers Ofcom went on to stress that ensuring affordable access to the technology for homes and businesses, particularly in rural areas, will also be a priority in the coming years.
The watchdog will do this by cutting the wholesale price that Openreach can charge telecoms companies for its basic superfast broadband service, which has a download speed of up to 40Mbps and an upload speed of 10Mbps.
Ofcom said regulating this price will also help BT’s competitors attract customers and safeguard them from high prices.
Jonathan Oxley, Competition Group Director at the watchdog, said: "Full-fibre meets the country’s future broadband needs, as demand for data soars.
"The measures we’ve set out today will support the growing number of companies who have already announced plans to build full-fibre networks, and open the way for even more ambitious investment around the UK.”
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has welcomed the move, saying Ofcom's measures will be "instrumental" in supporting a full-fibre rollout by promoting competition and ensuring widespread availability of these services.
"Full-fibre is vital to build a Britain that's fit for the future," he commented.
"The whole telecoms sector must now come together - in the national interest - to invest in the digital infrastructure that the UK needs and become a model of great customer service." Consumer information is vital Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch.com, added that Ofcom's focus on future investment alongside strong competition is "critical".
However, he stressed that this does not automatically mean it will "translate to a real-time boost to speeds and service that consumers can get at home", as people need to be "brought along on this journey" if they are to take up new services.
"We especially welcome Ofcom’s decision to bring down the wholesale price for entry-level fibre broadband by around £20 a year," he continued.
"Now the challenge is how the industry uses this to improve more consumer’s broadband experience and reduce the cost of bills."
Mr Neudegg went on to add that the move to lower wholesale entry-level pricing, designed to help drive the uptake of superfast services, "risks being a wasted effort if the industry doesn’t also urgently make changes that help surface the information that matters most to consumers when considering their broadband package".
For instance, he said more needs to be done to ensure more people are aware of the availability of superfast broadband speeds in their local areas, as it is now available to 95 per cent of premises.
Furthermore, Mr Neudegg said customers should be notified when their current contract is coming to an end, as this may prompt them to consider upgrading their services.
"To date, broadband providers have previously been guilty of a 'build it and they will come mentality'," he commented.
"So whilst measures to encourage further investment, teamed with a reduction in wholesale price for the entry-level product is clearly welcomed, more must be done to help bring consumers along on the journey."