Openreach full fibre plan to be hung on Christmas tree soon
Full fibre is the future is something that Mike McTighe the chair of Openreach has made clear speaking at a Broadband Futures Conference in Australia, he has also indicated that a lot more detail about the potential plans for Openreach to deliver 10 million premises of full fibre by 2025 will be published before Christmas 2017. Rather than transcribe the speech we recommend a trip over to YouTube and if your main interest is the future plans scrub forward to 15 minutes 30 seconds into the clip. The clip gives a potted history of Openreach and its history and existing actual plans for ultrafast broadband too.
The new hypothesis is likely to carry various conditions around the pricing of services, regulation and retirement of old infrastructure and while this may seem pie in the sky, we need to remember that the recent news on FTTP from CityFibre was only a commitment to 1 million premises where the headline 5 million is a future option Vodafone can enact if happy with how things are going. The current Openreach position is not that dissimilar as the largest FTTP operator in the UK it does have a very good idea of the demand both in urban, rural areas and both for new properties and existing and importantly what speeds people are subscribing too. Saying we want people to pay more is never going to be popular, and if this is tied into retirement of existing copper infrastructure in areas there will be lots of social exclusion worries around the entry level service price and this is where the bargain basement ADSL2+ services that are cheaper today than back in 2006 are going to be problematic.
On the existing actual plans to deliver 10 million premises of G.fast and 2 million FTTP (i.e. an extra 1.5 million on top of the current) that is not likely to change significantly since the new plan is something that is still going to need time to firm up into a deployment plan and small issues around things like the Universal Service Obligation still need resolving with Ofcom and Government. Where the new full fibre push will make a difference is post 2020, since if Openreach does not get any firm commitments to market and thus push sales for full fibre it is likely that we will see the G.fast roll-outs extended to more cabinets and some of the gaps in urban areas filled in with G.fast nodes in pavement chambers too. Mike talks of Openreach having rolled out FTTP to 500,000 premises and our tracking is short of that at 402,000 currently (an increase of 17,000 in the last 7 days) and in the video he says the footprint has doubled in the last year and on that we do agree.
There are some interesting observations we can make on the FTTP deployment based on what we are seeing and it is that in many towns deployments may be just 20 or 30 new homes, through to estates of hundreds of homes, in fact a lot of the growth outside the BDUK deployments has actually been new build homes and apartments.
On the shortfall we are currently ahead of Google in terms of plotted postcode locations having ingested the last postcode data released in the summer and having revisited some of the new build from 2015/2016 a chunk of shortfall is down to postcodes expanding in premise numbers as developers build more homes.
Openreach is far from the only player in the full fibre new build game, Hyperoptic, IFNL and Virgin Media have all featured in serving new estates and apartment blocks.