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Openreach accelerates full-fibre build

January 27, 2020

By Colin Mann

UK digital infrastructure provider Openreach has outlined plans to make ultrafast, ultra-reliable and future-proof broadband available in 227 market towns and villages across the nation, with building to commence within the next 14 months.

The portion of this build plan completed by March 2021 is within Openreach’s previously stated target to reach four million homes and businesses with ‘full-fibre’ technology March 2021.

These new locations such as Aberdare, in South Wales, and Saxmundham, in Suffolk, are part of the company’s ambition to extend its new ‘full’ fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network outside cities.

The plans build on successful cost busting village trials launched at the tail end of last year –  which have seen engineers developing a range of new tools, skills and techniques to help Openreach extend its full fibre network into areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

According to Openeach, there are also clear economic benefits to building full fibre in rural areas. In a report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth – commissioned by Openreach in 2019, revealed that with a future-proof and reliable fibre connection to every property by 2025:

  • Half a million people could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity
  • At least 400,000 more people could work from home, allowing them to live and work where they choose
  • 270,000 people could be freed to move out of cities in rural areas – helping stimulate regional and rural economic growth
  • 300 million commuting trips could be saved each year, with three billion fewer kilometres travelled by car.

“Our full fibre build programme is going great guns – having passed over 2 million premises already on the way to our 4 million target by March 2021,” advised Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. “We’re now building at around 26,000 premises a week in over 100 locations – reaching a new home or business every 23 seconds That’s up from 13,000 premises a week this time last year.

“Openreach has always been committed to doing our bit in rural Britain – delivering network upgrades in communities that are harder to reach and less densely populated. We intend to build a significant portion of our full-fibre network in these harder to reach areas of the UK and are announcing 227 locations today.

“Our ambition is to reach 15 million premises by mid-2020s if right investment conditions are in place. Currently, the biggest missing piece of this puzzle is getting an exemption from business rates on building fibre cables which is critical for any fibre builder’s long-term investment case.”

Full fibre technology is already offering plenty of benefits to rural businesses and homes, including award-winning ice cream making business Callestick Farm, in Cornwall, where it has created new markets and business opportunities for the family firm, including helping to establish and grow a new customer base in China.

“Marketing is at the heart of our business and now we can really make the most of the Internet to reach out to customers,” noted Callestick Farm’s Operations director, Ben Parker. “The key benefit is that we will now be able to use the cloud and cloud-based applications within our business operations. This should help us build still closer relationships with customers and will also remove the need for travel to some meetings, so this will bring cost and time savings as well.

“Everyday emailing, Internet banking and online research is also so much faster and this all adds up, saving us time and increasing productivity.”

Openreach recently reached over two million homes and businesses with full fibre technology and a quarter of its existing footprint already falls within rural areas. Also, more than 120,000 homes and businesses across the UK have signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) scheme. The programme enables the company to work with a local community to build a customised co-funded solution and bring fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.

Categories: Articles, Broadband, FTTH, Telco