Bristol will be one of the first major cities to benefit from the roll out of ultrafast fibre broadband. Openreach – the BT-owned company that manages the country’s broadband infrastructure – has announced a major acceleration of its network to three million homes across the UK by 2020. Bristol is among eight cities including Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester to make up the first phase of the company’s Fibre First programme, which will connect up to 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs with ultrafast fibre broadband.
Tens of thousands of Bristol homes and businesses are expected to benefit from the multi-million pound expansion.
Openreach says it will “continue to focus on delivering to rural areas” in a bid ensure some of the hardest-to-reach communities also receive better internet speeds. Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said: “Through the Fibre First programme, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an Ultrafast Britain. Read more: Demand for flexible workspace sees record growth in 2017
“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 (fibre to the premises) network that’s capable of delivering gigabit speeds to all homes and businesses at an affordable cost.”
Emma Howarth, programme director in the South West for Openreach, added: “[The investment] will give a vital boost to the Bristol’s households and businesses.
“For our vibrant business community, which is known for its innovation, it will mean more firms benefiting from the huge opportunities offered by this exciting technology to attract new customers, provide new services and work more efficiently.”
“Local households, too, will find ultrafast broadband a major step forward when they go online for reasons ranging from training and research to shopping, staying in touch with friends and family and entertainment.”
Building on the fibre broadband network is expected to begin this year.
- ^ Read more: Demand for flexible workspace sees record growth in 2017 (www.southwestbusiness.co.uk)
The original commercial superfast broadband roll-outs from Openreach included a lot more full fibre than was eventually delivered, but as the time and cost of delivery became apparent this was scaled back, jump forward a few years and after having learnt how to halve the cost of its fibre deployment to premises we have the welcome news that Openreach is accelerating its current 2 million premises passed by FTTP to 3 million premises passed with a delivery deadline of 2020. With the current footprint sitting at a declared 500,000 (our count is 457,544) premises, adding another 2.5 million in two years means an impressive 100,000 per month are needed. We suspect that with the end of many of the big parts of the BDUK programme that more resources are now available to focus on their pure commercial work.
“We’re accelerating our fibre to the premises build programme by 50% to reach 3 million homes by 2020.
This sets us on the right trajectory to achieve our ambition of a 10 million FTTP footprint by the mid-2020’s and, if the conditions are right, to go significantly beyond, and bring FTTP to the majority of homes and businesses across the UK.” Clive Selley, CEO Openreach
The roll-out is said to be starting in earnest in a few months and be focussed on eight cities Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Some of these cities are already seeing FTTP, for example some premises in central Bristol already have access to FTTP, and in the last few days bits of the London West End such as around the National Gallery have been spotted with access to full fibre.
To add some of the premises covered on the Whitehall exchange were previously Exchange Only lines, i.e. the fact that full fibre does not need a VDSL2 cabinet means EO lines can and are benefiting, just like all the roll-outs they are not coming to everyone all at the same time. The press release from Openreach talks about passing 27 million homes and businesses with superfast broadband and has used this figure before, we believe that this means Openreach is working from a premise count of 30.2 million premises for the United Kingdom so long as the use of superfast is correct, this is significantly higher than our figure of 28.92 million and while we believe there is scope for the addition of 100,000 to 200,000 buildings no signs that we are over a million premises short. Ofcom works with a 29.3 million premise count.
In our counting Openreach has passed 26.70 million premises with FTTC or FTTP which is why we mentioned a question mark around the use of the word superfast, and once you allow for the attenuation caused by distance access to 30 Mbps and faster drops to 25.83 million. So if there is a this difference what might be causing it, possibly counting premises with multiple physical phone lines based on the phone line count, adding infrastructure such as green street cabinets (100,000), telephone boxes and other things such as ice monitoring equipment and a myriad of street furniture where you can apparently order Openreach services to. Update February 2nd The latest BT Group financial results for Q4 2017 have confirmed that the superfast Openreach footprint is 27.4 million premises, erasing any doubt that the figure for coverage in this article on expanded FTTP rollout was a combined all operator figure.
Update 9:45am CityFibre has reacted in what could be described as a robust manner with a statement on the expansion.
As a business founded to deliver a new digital infrastructure platform for the UK, we welcome any contribution, from any source, that supports a drive towards national coverage. Today’s announcement from Openreach is a clear response to competition from CityFibre and other alternative full fibre infrastructure builders. It is clear that it’s in UK consumers’ and businesses’ best interests to deliver full fibre connectivity to the maximum possible number of premises in the shortest possible time and at the best possible value.
CityFibre and Vodafone is already leading the way, with a long-term strategic partnership that will bring ultrafast Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to up to five million UK homes and businesses, approximately 20% of the UK market, by 2025. It is recognised by government and Ofcom that the time has come to reduce the public’s dependency on Openreach. It is not in the UK’s best interest to encourage further entrenchment of the incumbent monopoly.
As successfully demonstrated all over the world, it is a new generation of infrastructure builders that are best placed to deliver full fibre – able to deliver the next generation of digital connectivity faster and at lower prices than incumbent operators. CityFibre statement on Openreach FTTP expansion
On the one hand we have CityFibre saying the Openreach announcement is in reaction to competition from CityFibre, suggesting competition may be a good way to drive firms to do more commercially, but on the other hand it is not in UK’s best interest to encourage more roll-out of full fibre by Openreach. As for the new generation being faster to deliver and at lower prices, both of these are actually easier for new firms with new capital and no legacy problems like debt or pension liabilities and regulation that would quickly stop them from massively undercuting rivals.
So we await the day we can state categorically that Openreach is not the largest FTTP provider in the UK. As for the monopoly remember that half the UK has a Virgin Media cable option and just below half for many years, as always only time will bring the answer as to how much the expansion by CityFibre and others who may be less brash is outside the existing footprint where Openreach is competing with Virgin Media already. Update 1:35pm Hyperoptic who we believe is the second largest full fibre operator in the UK has sent out a statement on the Openreach announcement.
Hyperoptic welcomes naysayers Openreach to the Full Fibre table but find their motives and focus suspect.
For years, Hyperoptic have been leading the Full Fibre transformation, ensuring that our cities are ready for their digital futures, while Openreach has focused on fibre to the cabinets and convincing the country that we’d never need more than 30 mbps. During that same period, Hyperoptic has rolled out Full Fibre to 30 cities and enabled a digital transformation within those catchment areas. Indeed, 1 in 7 central London and Manchester residents have access to Full Fibre, and across the Openreach’s future phase 1 territories Hyperoptic already cover 10% of properties with plans already in progress for our greater vision.
We re-iterate and confirm our target for 2m homes passed for 2020 and 5m for 2025. We also call on Ofcom to ensure that the Fibre First announcement is not a distraction from fulfilling the strategy of 2016’s Digital Communications Review, which rightly concluded that the UK is best served with Infrastructure competition. Openreach must be regulated to use its own duct and pole product when implementing its FTTP roll out so there is equivalent opportunity to build FTTP networks at scale and that Fibre First isn’t just a marketing name for Openreach’s Fibre Monopoly.
Hyperoptic has demonstrated its ability and commitment to transforming broadband into future proofed digital connectivity. Our customers enjoy 1 Gb connectivity for 20% less than BT’s 300 Mb product and with a customer satisfaction score of over 92% its proof that a competitive infrastructure environment is good for consumers. Lets get away from accepting short term solutions at the expense of the digital future of the UK.
Dana Tobak CBE, CEO and MD of Hyperoptic
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BT’s network division Openreach has announced plans to roll out Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband to 3 million addresses in the next two years. Improving on the original target of 2 million homes by the same deadline, the expanded rollout will mean that more homes and businesses will be able to access speeds of up to 1Gbps (1,000Mbps). Openreach has also demonstrated that 100Gbps is possible over its FTTP lines, meaning that the tech is well placed to meet future demand.
Beyond that, the network says it wants to pass at least 10 million addresses by the mid-2020s and it doesn’t want to stop there. CEO of Openreach Clive Selley said: “Three million by 2020 might not seem a lot – but connecting every individual property to a full fibre connection is a massive task and takes significant time, engineering and manpower. The job of “fibering” the UK will take decades.”
Recently, the government announced that a milestone in its Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) scheme had been hit; 95 per cent of properties across the country can now order superfast broadband – anything faster than 24Mbps – from a variety of ISPs, most of them using the Openreach network, as BT happened to be awarded the majority of the BDUK contracts. In most cases, people passed by BDUK projects will have been able to order Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC)-based services, which can deliver download speeds up to 80Mbps. While that’s nowhere near the bandwidth you’d be able to get with an FTTP line, Selley says that this achievement will act as “a stepping stone to something much bigger”.
As well as installing more new FTTP lines, a side effect of this is that Openreach will now have to reassess where it might roll out G.fast. G.fast is something of a halfway point between FTTC and FTTP and the first G.fast-based services from BT went on sale recently, promising maximum speeds of 152Mbps and 314Mbps and guaranteeing 100Mbps at all times. An Openreach spokesperson confirmed to PC Mag UK that today’s announcement means that places in not line for an upgrade to G.fast might now get a look in:
“By extending the FTTP target, we need to re-look at our ultrafast commitments and mix [of technologies]. We’ve said before that it doesn’t make sense to rollout G.fast and overbuild with FTTP. Today’s news means we’re increasing FTTP build commitment by 50 per cent.
That will inevitably mean we’ll have to reassess where to deploy G.fast,” the spokesperson said. BT currently plans to roll out G.fast to 10 million premises by 2020, but this, the spokesperson added, would be affected by how popular takeup of FTTP is: “G.fast is still very much part of the ultrafast strategy and in many cases will be the best option where access is difficult or expensive, so has significant role to play.
How much we build will inevitably depend on the success of our FTTP rollout.” Either way, it’ll be a while before we start to see FTTP-based services from BT landing in broadband comparison tables. Areas already earmarked for BT’s first big FTTP build include Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Manchester, and work will apparently begin in these areas in the next few months.
Selley however insists that this doesn’t mean that countryside communities, which have generally been poorly served by telecoms infrastructure upgrades, will be ignored. “Fibre first is more than just a programme. It’s about how Openreach thinks, and is approaching the challenge of building a large-scale FTTP network for the UK.
That means wherever we can in the future, we will build ‘fibre first’ – including in rural areas.”
- ^ 100Gbps is possible over its FTTP lines (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ pass at least 10 million addresses by the mid-2020s (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ where it might roll out G.fast (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ first G.fast-based services from BT went on sale recently (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ broadband comparison tables (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ Areas already earmarked (uk.pcmag.com)
- ^ BDUK Durham Cable team9 (www.flickr.com)
- ^ BT’s BDUK partnerships fibre rollout photography (www.flickr.com)
- ^ CC BY 2.0 (creativecommons.org)