Ofcom has given given the go-ahead for the construction of a super-fast broadband network which could offer UK uers speeds of up to 100Mbits/s.

"Super-fast broadband represents one of the most important developments in modern communications for many decades. It will deliver significant benefits to consumers and businesses with the prospect of new digital services delivered over the internet at high speed," said Ed Richards, chief executive of the regulatory body.

Ofcom also revealed a number of measures designed to help competition for the companies that plan to invest in upgrading the UK's ageing copper network to new fibre cables. Asking BT to share its fibre network with other ISPs was among the measures.

Other initiatives set out by the regulator include the promise that companies will be given freedom to price the services themselves, while those that invest have been promised returns at a rate that reflects the risk they took when making their initial outlay. The regulatory body also promised to work closely with the European Commission and the government in a bid to make roll-out as smooth as possible.

Some ISPs are already offering super-fast broadband. Virgin Media launched a 50Mbits/s service in December last year while BT is currently trialling next-generation broadband services in locations across the UK. "Our message today is clear: there are no regulatory barriers in the way of investment in super-fast broadband; we want to promote investment but also ensure that there is fair and effective competition for the future," added Richards.

James Parker, broadband manager at price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com, said Ofcom's announcement was "great news for consumers".

"Ofcom needs to make sure that no matter where people live, the regulation of this rollout enables consumers to get a fair deal and provides them with the option to search between a number of packages to suit their needs. Every home deserves to have fast access to what is now an essential service."