Openreach to expand full-fibre broadband network

Openreach is planning to make ultrafast broadband available in more than 200 market towns and villages across the UK as part of its aim to reach four million homes and businesses with full-fibre technology by March 2021.

Work will start within 14 months, with new locations including Aberdare in South Wales and Saxmundham in Suffolk, building on trials last year which have seen engineers develop new techniques to help Openreach extend its full-fibre network into areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “Our full-fibre build programme is going great guns, having passed over two million premises already on the way to our four million target by March 2021.

“We’re now building at around 26,000 premises a week in over 100 locations, reaching a new home or business every 23 seconds. That’s up from 13,000 premises a week this time last year.

“Openreach has always been committed to doing our bit in rural Britain, delivering network upgrades in communities that are harder to reach and less densely populated.

“We intend to build a significant portion of our full-fibre network in these harder-to-reach areas of the UK and are announcing 227 locations today.

“Our ambition is to reach 15 million premises by mid-2020s if right investment conditions are in place.

“Currently, the biggest missing piece of this puzzle is getting an exemption from business rates on building fibre cables which is critical for any fibre-builder’s long-term investment case.”

Felicity Burch, the CBI’s director of digital and innovation, said: “We welcome Openreach’s plan to expand its full-fibre network, using the double boost of investment and innovation to deliver fast, reliable connectivity to rural communities, from South Wales to Suffolk.

“For employers, this will support flexible working, quicken adoption of new technologies and spur on regional economic growth.

“It’s now vital the Government’s £5 billion funding for broadband is spent in the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK, hitting the 2025 target of gigabit-capable connectivity nationwide.”