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Openreach extends Gfast broadband roll-out

Openreach commits to rolling out Gfast broadband services to 59 new locations in the next phase of its ultrafast deployment plan

National broadband network builder Openreach has embarked on the next phase of its Gfast ultrafast broadband roll-out, announcing 59 locations around the UK in line to be upgraded to the enhanced service.

Gfast-enabled broadband is already available in over 40 places, and the extended roll-out should bring ultrafast services within reach of 370,000 additional homes, said Openreach.

“Britons are using their home broadband connections more than ever – consuming more than double the amount of data than they did just three years ago,” said Openreach managing director for strategic infrastructure development, Kim Mears.

“A mass of new apps and services which demand higher-quality broadband connections are becoming part of our daily lives in our homes and at work – like virtual and augmented reality and more sophisticated online gaming, education and healthcare. That’s why we’re making this huge investment in upgrading the network, to make sure we stay a step ahead of that demand.”

While not as fast as the gold standard of full-fibre broadband – which Openreach has previously committed to building as its “network of choice” – Gfast, which is a digital subscriber line (DSL) standard designed to enhance services on loops of under 500m where copper is the means of last mile transmission, is still capable of providing speeds of well over 100Mbps.

This is above the established definition of ultrafast broadband and enables users to enjoy the full range of current broadband applications, such as home-working or HD video streaming, while giving enough wiggle-room to enable some emerging and future use cases, such as 8K TV and internet of things (IoT) connections.

Despite its conversion to full-fibre, Gfast is still particularly attractive to organisations like Openreach that control large copper broadband networks, because it means service upgrades can be achieved relatively cheaply simply by attaching a bolt-on digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM) to existing street cabinets and eliminating the immediate need to dig up streets to bury new fibre cables.

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Meanwhile, Openreach’s full-fibre, or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) roll-out continues at pace. The organisation hopes to have passed three million UK homes and businesses with FTTP broadband by the end of 2020, and at last week’s Connected Britain event, Mears told delegates its engineers were currently connecting 8,000 properties to FTTP every week.

If the right conditions are put in place to enable wider investment – with support from telecoms regulator Ofcom and other communications services providers (CSPs), Openreach has suggested it could extend its FTTP roll-out to 10 million premises within the next seven years.

When coupled with FTTP builds by other players, such as CityFibre, this would enable the government to hit its own target of 15 million premises connected over the same timescale, and would potentially put the UK on course to meet chancellor Philip Hammond’s ambition to have a full-fibre network touching every property in the country by 2033.

The new exchanges to benefit from Gfast will be in Aberdeen Denburn, Acocks Green, Altrincham, Aylesbury, Bedford, Birmingham Central, Bishops Stortford, Boscombe, Bowes Park, Bury St Edmunds, Bury, Byfleet, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Cosham, Didsbury, Erdington, Gipsy Hill, Guildford, Hampton, Harlow, Harrogate, Headingley, Heywood, Kingston, Lancaster, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Llantrisant, Maidstone, Market Harborough, Mile End, Morley, Narborough, North Finchley, Paignton, Plymouth, Rugby, Shipley, Slough, South Kensington, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, St Albans, Stockton Heath, Swadlincote, Tamworth, Taunton, Telford Wellington, Tunbridge Wells, Walthamstow, Weston Super Mare, Windsor, Wolverhampton, Woodhouse (Berkshire), Woodley and York.

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