Openreach to deploy fibre-to-the-premises to 3 million homes by 2020

Openreach has announced that it is accelerating its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) build programme to enhance the UK’s digital infrastructure.

Specifically, Openreach is extending the build out target by 50% to reach 3 million homes and businesses by the end of the year 2020 through its ‘Fibre First’ programme. The first five cities named in the project are Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester, which will connect 40 towns and boroughs with FTTP, starting in 2018.

Commenting on the announcement, Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said: “Through the Fibre First programme, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an Ultrafast Britain. We are accelerating our plans to build FTTP to three million premises by 2020 which sets the course to reach ten million by the mid-2020s with the right conditions. Where possible going forward, we will ‘fibre first’.

In addition to the cities named, Openreach in partnership with the government, will continue to focus on delivering FTTP in rural areas.

Once deployed the FTTP network will offer a range of benefits for residents and businesses, including: a better and more reliable service, fewer faults and faster, more predictable and consistent speeds.

The company says that the pace at which the project will happen depends largely on the conditions to enable an acceptable return on the investment are secured. Openreach says that its needs support from Communication Providers (CPs), central and local Government as well as regulators to deliver key enablers, which include: achieving low build and connection costs, achieving rapid take-up of and generating revenue from the platform and having a supportive regulatory and public policy framework.

The company is quick to add that if it is unable to secure an acceptable return, it will need to review its ongoing capital commitments to the programme.

“Working closely with Central and Local government and our Communication Provider customers, we will identify the cities, towns and rural areas where we can build a future-proofed, FTTP network that’s capable of delivering gigabit speeds to all homes and businesses at an affordable cost,” added Selley.

Openreach says that by reaching 3 million premises by 2020, it is right on course to reach its goal of hitting 10 million homes by the mid-2020s and subject to the right conditions, the ability to go beyond these figures.

The firm say that despite its plans for fibre, that Gfast still remains a critical part of Openreach’s ultrafast strategy and it will be deployed at scale in the UK to millions of premises. Also as it builds on existing Openreach networks “it is quick to deploy with minimal disruption and at relatively low cost”. But it will still adopt a fibre first ethos and will not roll out Gfast technology where FTTP has already been deployed.

As a result of the 2017 consultation that Openreach launched, it received widespread support for its FTTP build out and it also identified a number of enablers to build a commercial case.

The first was the build and connection costs, the second is the potential take-up and revenue and the third is the need for a supportive regulatory and public policy framework.

“We’ll continue to invest in our people and we’re already in the process of re-training and upskilling to make Fibre First a reality. We plan to hire around 3,000 engineers in 2018/19 to kick-start Fibre First and further improve the reliability and performance of our existing networks,” continued Selley.

In November, Vodafone annouced its partnership with CityFibre and its plan to bring Gigabit fibre broadband to up to five million homes and businesses in the UK by the year 2025.