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Openreach: momentum needed now to hit all IP UK network target

Openreach says time is very much of the essence if it is to meet its 2025 target of upgrading the UK’s comms infrastructure to a full fibre and All-IP technologies

The UK body for building and maintaining the country’s consumer and business communications networks, Openreach, has revealed that time is of the essence if it is to meet its 2025 target of upgrading the UK’s comms infrastructure to a full fibre and All-IP technologies.

Openreach announced in June 2019 that it would conduct two trials in Salisbury and Mildenhall as the starting point of the plan to prepare the UK for the future.

This move is part of Openreach’s ongoing work with the UK’s communications providers (CPs) to withdraw ageing telephone and broadband infrastructure and move the country’s consumers and businesses onto faster, more reliable and future proof broadband connections.

The Salisbury trial focuses on building full fibre to the whole of the town before migrating customers from the copper network to full fibre – a process that is targeted to happen by 2022.

The project involves working with partners such as TalkTalk, Sky and BT to achieve two basic aims – the move from copper to fibre to the home-based networks, and withdrawing wholesale products and services that run over the traditional telephone network.

In addition to home and office phones, the latter includes the likes of traffic lights and burglar alarms. The switch off will see voice services be essentially an extra feature on top of broadband lines.

Openreach product director Mark Logan described the All-IP project as having “blindingly obvious” advantages, but that it was “quite a large piece of work”.

“We want to furnish customers with new IP services whether they know it or not. The challenge is really to do things that customers are used to having…on a much more reliable network,” he said.

The good news for Logan is that there’s already considerable political will and funding to see the migration happen on time. He pointed to the recent Queen’s Speech setting out a timetable for full-fibre access throughout the UK. Another advantage, he said, was that Openreach’s partners were positive about the new opportunities that the project would deliver.  

“We see new service providers and new unicorns. We should all be looking at an exciting period where we see opportunities and business models,” said Logan.

“There is a pain point: we need to generate the momentum – it’s like a super tanker turning. Once we are running, then people will see the opportunities and it will get its own momentum. Getting the word out there is the biggest challenge.”

Logan expressed the aim of completing the Salisbury project by 2022, and revealed similar plans on a much bigger scale in the cities of Manchester and Bristol.

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