National broadband network builder Openreach is canvassing the views of its communication service provider (CSP) customers – such as BT, TalkTalk and Sky – to help build its strategy around transitioning consumers from copper-based broadband to full-fibre broadband services.
Openreach said that unlike previous industry transitions – such as the digital TV switchover in the 2000s – the process of upgrading broadband connections to full-fibre was somewhat more complex in that it requires physical connections to be made to individual properties and necessitates substantial industry investment.
It therefore wants to understand how best to build its network, how the industry should migrate customers onto full-fibre, and how and when it might be able to switch off its copper network.
With access to full-fibre broadband – also known as fibre-to-the-premises or FTTP – increasing on a daily basis as a number of rival network builds progress around the UK, Openreach said the work being done would ultimately bring huge benefits to the industry and the UK in general, improving service speeds and reliability, and helping boost productivity and competitiveness.
“We’re consulting with broadband providers to decide how and when we upgrade customers to even faster, more reliable and future-proof, full fibre broadband,” said Katie Milligan, managing director for customer, commercial and propositions at Openreach.
“Our new network will place the UK at the forefront of the global digital race and provide a major boost to the UK economy, so we’re determined to create a plan that will benefit of every UK community, by upgrading customers quickly, smoothly and affordably.
“We believe this consultation is crucial to that process, and it will support further investment from across the industry. We’re really ambitious about upgrading the UK to the fastest, most reliable broadband there is,” she said.
“Upgrading the UK’s digital infrastructure will add billions to our economy, enable companies to adopt new technologies and close the productivity gap,” added Felicity Burch, director of innovation at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
“Engaging business and consumers will be crucial in achieving the government’s vision for nationwide full fibre by 2033. Smoothing out the details through this consultation will help ensure the UK remains the number one place to start and grow a digital business,” she said.
Openreach has outlined a number of guiding principles to help steer the conversation, which it believes will be crucial to the success of the full-fibre transition.
These include building contiguous footprints to eliminate not-spots; working closely with CSPs to upgrade customers once they have been passed by a full-fibre network; offering a compelling and simple product portfolio to support more advanced services; upgrading most people voluntarily while developing a process for late adopters; withdrawing copper services on a progressive basis; and developing a consumer charter alongside CSPs and Ofcom to encourage more transparent communications to users, and protections for vulnerable customers.
In line with its plans, Openreach said it was already on track to make full-fibre available to three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. It added that to go further and meet the government objective of universal full-fibre by 2033, it was vital for the industry to agree the right approach to the upgrade.
The consultation will run until 3 May 2019, with next steps to be decided later in the year.
Read more about broadband
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- A £75m investment will see thousands of residential properties hooked up to full-fibre broadband services in Bournemouth and Northampton.
- Every residential and business property in Salisbury will be able to access full-fibre broadband in 12 months, claims Openreach.