UK digital infrastructure provider Openreach has outlined plans to build ultrafast, ultra-reliable Full Fibre broadband to at least three million more homes and businesses in some of the nation’s hardest-to-serve communities – meaning fewer homes and businesses will require taxpayer subsidies to upgrade.
The company’s updated build plan will be fundamental to the UK Government achieving its target of delivering ‘gigabit capable broadband’ to 85 per cent of UK by 2025 and it follows an extended investment commitment by its parent, BT Group. It means Openreach will now build Full Fibre technology to a total of 25 million premises, including more than six million in the hardest-to-serve parts of the country.
The plans also include an extension to the company’s biggest ever recruitment drive, with a further 1,000 new roles being created in 2021 on top of the 2,500 jobs which were announced in December 2020.
“Building a new broadband network across the UK is a massive challenge and some parts of the country will inevitably require public funding,” notes Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. “But our expanded build plan means taxpayer subsidies can be limited to only the hardest to connect homes and businesses – and we hope to see other companies step forward to build in the most rural areas too.”
“This is a hugely complex, nationwide engineering project – second only to HS2 in terms of investment. It will help level-up the UK because the impact of Full Fibre broadband stretches from increased economic prosperity and international competitiveness, to higher employment and environmental benefits. We’re also delighted to continue bucking the national trend by creating thousands more jobs, with apprentices joining in their droves to start their careers as engineers.”
“We are levelling up the UK and taking hard-to-reach homes and businesses off buffer mode with a £5 billion investment in lightning-fast, next generation broadband,” added Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden. “I welcome Openreach’s ambitious plans to connect millions more rural homes to gigabit speeds. It means our funding can go even further to help those in need and will create thousands more high-skilled engineering jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Openreach is already building Full Fibre faster, at lower cost and higher quality than anyone else in the UK, having made the technology available to more than 4.8 million homes and business so far.
Openreach is using a range of innovations and techniques to deliver world class build costs, whilst a major investment in 11 new regional training centres is helping to equip and skill thousands of new engineers. As a result, Openreach believes it can build Full Fibre to up to four million rural and urban premises a year (or c.75,000 per week, which is c.15,000 every working day) under its commercial programme.
The new, five-year deployment plan includes the majority of homes and business in around 1100 exchange locations – including market and coastal towns, villages and hamlets spread across the entire UK. The locations include Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, Cardigan in Wales, Keswick in Cumbria and Allhallows in Kent.
Further details and timescales will continue to be published on the Openreach website as detailed surveys and planning are completed and the build progresses.