Openreach to consult on ‘full fibre’ network for UK
11 May 2017 | Alan Burkitt-Gray
BT’s last-mile subsidiary Openreach is to begin a consultation on how to deliver fibre-style speeds to the 3% of the UK that get less than 10Mbps.Openreach says it will consult with other communications providers in a confidential process to discuss their needs.
“We are committed to continuing our investment in the infrastructure Britain needs to support our thriving digital economy,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley. “We want to work closely with communications providers to explore how we do that.”
The company, which is a 100% subsidiary of BT, provides broadband infrastructure to more than 580 other communications companies. It will seek customer input on two major policy issues for the UK – building the investment case for a large-scale full fibre network and bringing faster broadband speeds to so-called “not-spots which can only order less than 10 Mbps services today.
Openreach wants to make ultrafast speeds of more than 100Mbps available to 12 million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. But it says it wants to explore conditions which might allow it to invest in more fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure.
Selley said: “With the right conditions we could make full fibre connections available to as many as 10 million homes and businesses by the mid-2020s, but we need to understand if there’s sufficient demand to justify the roll-out, and support – across industry, Ofcom and government – for the enablers needed to build a viable business case.”
At the same time Openreach has launched a consultation with providers on the next steps for an emerging broadband technology called long reach VDSL, which it says has been proven to increase broadband speeds over long phone lines connected to its fibre cabinets.
By the end of this year, 95% of the UK is expected to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above, said Openreach.
But rival company CityFibre, an open-access wholesale provider, condemned the plans. CEO Greg Mesch said: “It is laughable that Openreach claim to be the nation’s digital champion when it is responsible for the UK being stuck in the digital doldrums. It has fallen to CityFibre, an independent communications infrastructure builder, to lead the charge to deliver the UK’s full fibre future not Openreach.”
He said that CityFibre was working with Sky and TalkTalk “to prove the viability of fibre to the home with a trial in York, demonstrating over 27% of homes taking a next generation full fibre service in just over a year”.
He added: “It is now abundantly clear that infrastructure competition, supported by targeted regulation and government support, is the only mechanism that will guarantee the innovation and investment needed to catch up and compete with other countries.”