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Openreach consulting on a large scale full fibre rollout

Openreach consulting on a large scale full fibre rollout

We have called out the snippet on full fibre from the BT Group financials as it deserves its own news item and delving through the full results takes a little more time. The latest financial results1 from the BT Group includes indications that the proportion of FTTP from Openreach may increase.

“We aspire to be the UK’s digital champion. To achieve this, we’re ready to invest in the UK’s digital infrastructure, in continued improvements in our customer service, and in new technologies to further enhance customer experience. To that end, Openreach has today announced that it’s consulting with customers and industry stakeholders on the business case that could support better rural broadband and a large scale Fibre-to-the-premises rollout across the UK.”

Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive

Of course this is not a firm commitment to a figure of say 20 million premises passed by FTTP, but a consultation that is looking into the case is a welcome move. The original superfast roll-outs started in 2009 did include more FTTP, but that was downscaled once the timescales involved were apparent on timesheets, but recently with the new ultrafast focus pushing the Openreach FTTP footprint to two million by 2020 is a clear ambition, going further seems to be part of the consultation. If Openreach can deliver ~1.6 million premises of FTTP (i.e. in addition to existing) in the next three years, then to make a serious dent in the number of premises passed will need greater investment in staff to do the work on the ground and a willingness from investors to continue with another decade of local loop rebuilding, but with the potential that when finished they can watch the profits roll in.

The willingness of Ofcom to regulate evidenced by the proposal to reduce revenue from VDSL2 40/10 by ?4/month which is expected in a years time but to leave untouched the ultrafast G.fast and FTTP products may also be a factor i.e. while their is a pseudo regulatory holiday on the full fibre products lets get on and roll them out. Also the PIA changes may spur competition in some urban areas. Over the years meeting and talking with Openreach and other employees of BT I have gained the impression that all too often individuals and teams have been keen to do much FTTP roll-out but demonstrating the business case has always been the difficulty.

One final thought, with the Universal Service Obligation very much on the way, how willing would the future UK Government be to support full fibre for the obligation or more precisely will it stump up some money to give those who now have some of the worst speeds access to future proof full fibre technology. The numbers needing support via the USO is dropping every week making it slightly more feasible to a full fibre roll-out to USO clusters – the work by Openreach is Wales will be informing them a lot about the costs of extending fibre an extra mile, i.e.

there are some rural homes and farms in Wales that are a mile from the next nearest premise that are gaining FTTP.

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References

  1. ^ financial results (www.btplc.com)
  2. ^ Login (www.thinkbroadband.com)
  3. ^ Register (www.thinkbroadband.com)

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