BT has been told to accelerate the process of rolling out lines to businesses and must also reduce the amount it charges its rivals to use its fixed-line network. In a statement released on Tuesday (22 March), Ofcom said by the end of March 2017 the FTSE 100 group must be able to install high-speed lines to business customers within 46 days, which should then be cut to 40 days in 2018.
Five years ago, the telecoms giant successfully completed the installation process within 40 days but it now takes the company an extra eight days to fit fast broadband. The recommendations come amid Ofcom's regulatory investigation into the corporate telecom business, a market which is thought to be worth approximately £2bn (€2.55bn, $2.86bn).
"BT is relied upon by many companies to install these lines, and its performance has not been acceptable," said Ofcom director Jonathan Oxley. "These new rules will mean companies across the UK benefit from faster installation times, greater certainty about installation dates, and fast repairs if things go wrong."
Oxley added Ofcom had put Britain's reliance on high-speed internet connections in context during its investigation. "All of us depend on high-speed, fibre optic lines. Businesses use them to communicate, and they also underpin the broadband and mobile services used by consumers at home and on the move."
The regulator has also urged BT to lower the price it charges sector peers to use its so-called 'leased lines'. BT owns and maintains leased lines, which are used to transfer data on networks of different mobile operators, on behalf of competing providers.
Following a review of the market, Ofcom said in February that it would set higher standards for Openreach, BT's network business.
"Ofcom has decided that Openreach is taking too long to install leased lines and is not providing adequate certainty that the services will be provided by the date first given to the customer," the regulator said in a statement.
BT said it accepted Ofcom's recommendations and would work to meet customers' demand.
"We accept there is more to do on service and are committed to doing better and meeting our business customers' rising expectations," a spokesman for the company said. However, the FTSE 100 invoked looser regulations for the telecoms market.
"Competition and choice have been growing in the business connectivity market and we believe there is a strong case for less, not more, regulation," it said.