Openreach extends Gfast roll-out to a million more homes

Copper-based ultrafast broadband roll-out continues at pace

National network builder Openreach is to extend its roll-out of Gfast broadband delivery technology across the UK, with 81 exchanges covering a million homes and businesses set to be upgraded in the next nine months.

Gfast differs from the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) – also known as full-fibre – gold standard of broadband delivery technologies in that it still relies on traditional copper cabling to bridge the final gap between the street cabinet and the customers’ properties.

Nevertheless, it is still capable of delivering ultrafast (+100Mbps and potentially much faster) broadband services, putting it on par with full-fibre, at least for the time being.

This has made Gfast an attractive option for many incumbent network owners, such as Openreach, as it enables them to quickly and cheaply connect customers to ultrafast services using pre-existing network assets.

Openreach is targeting exchanges in urban and suburban locations, with areas of Birmingham, Blackpool, Leicester, London, Manchester, Stoke and Worthing all in line for upgrades, joining around 250 exchanges that have already been souped up.

“Currently, the UK is a world leader in digital infrastructure and services, but as the digital revolution rushes forwards and the demand for data continues to grow, we need to sure we stay ahead of the curve,” said Openreach managing director for strategic infrastructure development, Kim Mears.

“That’s why we’re investing in faster, more reliable network infrastructure to facilitate all the activities we want to do now, and also those we haven’t even dreamt of doing in 10 years’ time.”

Openreach said the increased bandwidth afforded by Gfast would enable households to support multiple 4K video streams, for example, and would future-proof customers against even more data-hungry services yet to be released.

The technology is also considered to be more reliable than existing fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services, with software now being deployed across the network to detect and manage service-affecting issues in real-time.

Openreach’s wider FTTP roll-out remains ongoing, having already passed 1.9 million premises on its way to a planned three million by the end of 2020. The organisation expects to serve a total of 5.7 million premises with Gfast.

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