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Openreach extends full-fibre build across Northern Ireland

Openreach has added 10 more towns and cities to its Fibre First programme in Northern Ireland, as it hits a new milestone in terms of homes passed

Residents of Armagh, Bangor, Ballymena, Coleraine, Derry-Londonderry, Enniskillen, Lisburn, Larne, Newry and Newtownards in Northern Ireland will soon be able to order ultrafast full-fibre – or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) – broadband services in the latest expansion of Openreach’s Fibre First programme.

The national network builder has already started work on a full-fibre dig in Belfast – which is also now being expanded – through its recently rebranded Openreach Northern Ireland unit, but will now target homes across the region.

With the addition of Stockport near Manchester to the programme, this means Fibre First is now active in 38 towns and cities in the UK, and the dig is now passing around 14,000 homes every week.

“Since the launch of our build programme last year, we’ve made huge progress – honing our skills, tools and techniques, driving our costs down and helping our engineers to go ever further, faster and more efficiently,” said Clive Selley, Openreach CEO.

“But it’s not all about being a fast builder; we’re also keen to encourage fast adoption. We recently launched a consultation with industry to decide how and when we upgrade customers to this new future-proofed digital network.”

The latest expansion of Fibre First came as Openreach revealed it has now passed a total of 1.2 million homes with its full-fibre network. Based on Ofcom’s most recently available figures, and taking other competitive network builds into account, this means the total number of homes in the UK now able to access full-fibre services is very likely now over two million.

The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review set out our approach to maximising full fibre coverage, and I’m delighted that Openreach has now reached one million homes and businesses,” said digital minister Margot James.

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  • Openreach chairman Mike McTighe discusses progress on the national full-fibre broadband roll-out, the impact of Brexit, how to better engage with the CSP community, and the role of dark fibre.
  • Broadband startup toob has received a £75m funding injection to begin a full-fibre roll-out in the near future.

“Significant investment like this from network operators is critical to deliver our plans for nationwide coverage, and we’re working with industry and Ofcom to create an environment that supports and encourages the commercial roll-out of full fibre broadband.”

Openreach said its engineers have deployed about 2.6 million kilometres of fibre since February 2018 – enough to go to the moon and back three times – with a team of 2,000 fibre engineers, 3,000 spades, hundreds of pieces of heavy plant machinery including pole erection units, cherry pickers and diggers, and a small fleet of drones.

The firm also tracked down the owner of the millionth home to be passed to give its owner free FTTP for a year. The recipient, Shaun Duffield, a father of eight from Leeds, said: “With a family this size, getting online at the same time with our old broadband was just impossible; there was constant arguing and moaning. But since the new fibre was switched on, I’ve not heard a peep out of anyone.”

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