Openreach is finally getting behind full fibre-to-the-premises, as it announces that three million UK homes and businesses will be connected to its ultrafast network by the end of 2020.
The announcement comes as Openreach launch its new ‘Fibre First’ programme, which will see the company leaning more on the roll-out of fibre optic cabling, rather than traditional copper. That’s despite efforts to make copper cabling more reliable, with its G.fast technology having already delivered speeds of up to 330Mbps to some areas across the UK.
Openreach has pledged to recruit and train 3,000 engineers this year in order to connect its new target of three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. It had previously committed to reaching just two million homes by that date.
There’s a long way to go until those three million homes are connected. Openreach currently has just 500,000 homes connected to its FTTP network, meaning it’ll now have to connect an addition 2.5 million in the next few years. Those homes will also be centred around large cities, with Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester making up the first phase of the roll-out. In fact, Openreach says there will be around 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs that will be connected.
Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, notes: “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 10 million by the mid-2020s with the right conditions. Where possible going forward, we will ‘fibre first’.
“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.”
The cost of connecting homes and businesses to the FTTP network will definitely be an obstacle in its roll-out. Openreach estimates that the current plans will likely cost around £300-400 per premises, although even with the additional homes the UK still pales in comparison to some other EU nations.
Alex Neill, from consumer group Which?, comments: “When you look that 79% of people in Spain have got access to full fibre and yet only 3 per cent of British homes have, clearly consumers will be asking why that is happening, especially when the majority of them have experienced a problem with their broadband in the last year.”