Openreach extends free fibre installation scheme for UK home developers

UK broadband infrastructure provider drops the threshold for free eligibility to its fibre delivery scheme for new-build houses from 30 to 20 homes

Openreach has extended the scope of its scheme offering fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) installation free of charge for new housing developments.

As part of its commitment to the build-out of fibre broadband across the UK, the provider has announced that UK developers building smaller new sites of just 20 or more properties are now eligible to have full-fibre connectivity built across their sites at no cost when they register with Openreach.

It says this will benefit more than 13,000 new homes across about 600 small housing developments each year.

The new threshold extends Openreach’s existing scheme to install FTTP free of charge to all new housing developments from 30 or more homes. The lower threshold for free FTTP for sites with 20 or more plots will take effect on 1 April 2020.

Full-fibre broadband build-out was a key commitment for the recently elected UK government and, in getting its plans under way, the new administration introduced to Parliament on 8 January a first reading of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20. The bill will make it possible for broadband suppliers to install broadband connections where a landlord has failed to respond to repeated requests for access.

The government has also committed to amending legislation so that all new-build homes are required to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections.

In a further move to address frustration outside of metro areas over a lack of reliable, high-speed broadband, regulator Ofcom has revealed new regulations designed to help build a full-fibre network for the whole of the country.

These aim to improve the business case for fibre investment by: setting wholesale prices from Openreach in a way that encourages competition from new networks, as well as its own investment; protecting customers and driving competition by making sure people can still access affordable broadband and preventing Openreach from stifling competition; taking rural areas into the fast lane by supporting investment by Openreach in these areas; and closing the copper network as full-fibre is built, so Openreach does not have the unnecessary costs of running two parallel networks.

To date, 99% of plots on development sites of 30 or more homes have registered for FTTP and, since launching in 2016, Openreach has connected 354,000 new-build homes with full-fibre technology. In its current financial year, the company has built full-fibre to 125,000 new-build premises, reaching about 3,500 new premises with full-fibre every week, and says it is on target to reach 175,000 by the end of the current fiscal year in April 2020. 

By dropping the threshold for free eligibility from 30 to 20 homes, Openreach plans to drive take-up of full-fibre by developers on these smaller developments from its current level of 45% to reach 100%.

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Also as part of its new plans, and to help encourage further full-fibre take-up, Openreach has capped the amount that UK house builders contribute if they ask the broadband provider to build full-fibre to smaller-scale developments of just two or three premises.

“Our existing offer already provides huge benefits to both buyers and builders alike, but we want to go further and make sure everybody moving into a new-build property can enjoy the advantages of full-fibre broadband,” said Kim Mears managing director of strategic infrastructure development at Openreach.

“The UK is a world leader in digital infrastructure and services, but as the digital revolution continues at an ever increasing pace, and our demand for data grows, we need to make sure this country stays ahead of the curve by building fast, reliable networks that cater for all the activities we will want to do online in the decades ahead.”

Kieran Walker, technical director at the UK Home Builders Federation (HBF), said: “The HBF and its membership welcome this change to Openreach’s fibre offering and fully support Openreach in its strategic objective of providing full FTTP to all new dwellings. The customer of today expects, in line with other utility suppliers, to be provided with fast, reliable, uninterrupted service upon receiving the keys to their new home. This further step improvement will assist house builders in ensuring their customers’ overall journey is positive one.”

Openreach says that through its new Fibre First strategy, it is on track to reach four million homes and businesses with its full-fibre network by the end of March 2021, and aims to reach 15 million by the middle of the decade, given the right conditions.

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