UK digital network infrastructure provider Openreach has outlined plans to make ultra-reliable and gigabit-capable FTTP broadband available to more than three million homes and businesses in some of the UK’s hardest to serve communities.
This follows a new consultation from industry regulator Ofcom where it proposes that such a build commitment from Openreach is sufficient for them to extend the fibre enablers previously set out in its Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review (WFTMR) consultation for Area 2, to Area 3. This will contribute to the right investment conditions for Area 3 being in place. Ofcom has estimated that there are 9.6 million homes and businesses situated in this final third of the country.
The build to 3.2 million UK premises forms part of a £12 billion (€13.24bn) investment which will see Openreach’s ambition to build ‘Full Fibre’ infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the mid-to-late 2020s – delivering significant economic, social and environmental benefits for rural and urban communities, assuming the right regulatory and political fibre enablers are in place.
The company is also publishing an extended list of 251 locations in the final third where it will build the new network over the next three years including the likes of Millom, Thurso, Ballycastle and Aberystwyth.
The data provides more clarity on its plans – giving greater certainty to local authorities, investors and customers – and supports the Government’s strategy to accelerate commercial investments in Full Fibre networks throughout the UK.
“This year, we’ve all seen the importance of having a decent broadband connection and at Openreach, we’re convinced that Full Fibre technology can underpin the UK’s economic recovery,” commented Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. “Right now, we’re building a new, ultra-reliable full-fibre network that will boost productivity, cut commuting and carbon emissions, and connect our families, public services and businesses for decades to come. It’s Ofcom’s proposals that give us the right conditions to build commercially in hardest to reach areas.”
“We’re determined to find inventive engineering solutions and effective partnership funding models to reduce costs and enable us to connect as many communities as possible across the UK without public subsidy.
“Openreach is leading the charge to help Government achieve its target of making gigabit capable networks available nationwide by 2025. And we hope that by publishing our own plans, we can help ensure that taxpayers only fund connections in communities that really need public support,” he concluded.
“Fast and secure Internet connections will be a vital tool to help our economy recover and we have committed £5 billion to make sure the hardest-to-reach areas of the UK aren’t left behind,” stated Oliver Dowden, Digital Secretary. “Today’s announcement is a significant step forward, with Openreach delivering better broadband so 3.2 million families and businesses can work and enjoy faster speeds.”
“Digital connectivity has been vital for companies’ survival during the Covid-19 outbreak as staff increasingly work from home and firms find innovative ways to engage customers online,” noted Felicity Burch, CBI Director of Digital. “Openreach’s announcement is welcome news for rural businesses. It will lay the necessary groundwork for firms to adopt new technology and help ensure even more people in rural areas can have faster, more reliable connections. Improving our digital infrastructure is a key step in building back better and future-proofing the UK economy against any further disruption.”
“This commitment will provide a great economic boost for rural areas, where it’s clear connectivity has traditionally lagged behind more urban areas,” suggested Tim Bonner, CEO, Countryside Alliance. “As we have seen during the Covid pandemic, digital connectivity has been essential for the millions who are home schooling and working from home. If we are all to play our part in rebuilding the economy, then good digital connectivity across the country is absolutely essential, so we welcome this important move.”
“This announcement from Openreach is a welcome step towards eradicating the digital divide between urban and rural areas,” said Mark Bridgeman, CLA President. “Connectivity has played a vital part in home working during the Covid-19 pandemic and, with many individuals and businesses considering a move to the countryside, it’s essential that rural communities continue to receive better coverage. Greater digital connectivity in the countryside will play a critical role in the nation’s economic recovery, allowing businesses to invest, grow and recruit long into the future.”
According to Openreach, there are clear economic, social and environmental benefits to building full fibre in rural areas. A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth – has revealed that with a future-proof and reliable fibre connection to every property by 2025:
Openreach has already built Full Fibre technology to over three million premises across the UK – including over a quarter in the final third of the country.