Openreach selects STL as a strategic partner for full-fibre build-out

BT-owned broadband provision division teams with digital network integrator to hasten full-fibre network build and provide skills and innovation to extend reach and scope

Hot on the heels of hitting its first target of making full-fibre broadband available to 4.5 million premises across the UK, broadband provider Openreach has announced a strategic collaboration with digital network integrator STL to provide optical cable systems for the gigabit infrastructure.

As of March 2021, Openreach’s fibre network has reached more than 170 city locations, including Birmingham, Belfast, London and Manchester, and is also building in more than 550 market towns and villages. The BT-owned provider has said that, so far this year, it has built full-fibre for more than 1.9 million premises, and is on track to reach 20 million premises by the mid-to-late 2020s, at which point nearly two-thirds of the UK will be able to order full-fibre services over the network.

Openreach said it was driving roll-out by partnering with local and national government on a range of subsidised projects, and was boosted by the Community Fibre Partnership scheme designed to help local communities build a customised fibre solution to bring fibre broadband to homes and businesses.

The build includes more than three million premises in the UK’s hardest-to-reach areas, and Openreach said it was also encouraged to see strong customer demand for full-fibre services, with more retail communication providers coming on board. New orders were said to have reached about 17,000 a week on average during the last quarter.

Under the new partnership, STL will be responsible for delivering millions of kilometres of optical fibre cable to support the build over the next three years. Openreach plans to use STL’s expertise to help accelerate its full-fibre build programme and drive efficiency. The collaboration strengthens a 14-year-old technology and supply relationship between the two companies and further reinforces STL’s commitment to the UK market.

Openreach plans to take advantage of STL’s Opticonn technology – a specialised set of fibre, cable and interconnect offerings designed to drive significant performance improvements, including up to 30% faster installation. It will also have access to STL’s Celesta – a high-density optical fibre cable with a capacity of up to 6,912 optical fibres. This design is said to be 26% slimmer than traditional loose tube cables, allowing 2km of cable to be installed in under an hour. The high-density cable will also help minimise the use of plastic across Openreach’s new network.

“Our full-fibre network build is going faster than ever,” said Kevin Murphy, MD for fibre and network delivery at Openreach. “We need partners like STL on board to not only help sustain that momentum, but also to provide the skills and innovation to help us go even further. We know the network we’re building can deliver a host of social and economic benefits – from boosting UK productivity to enabling more home working and fewer commuting trips – but we are also trying to make this one of the greenest network builds in the world.”

Ankit Agarwal, CEO, connectivity solutions business at STL, added: “We are extremely excited to join hands with Openreach as a key optical solutions partner to build full-fibre broadband networks for millions in the UK. Our customised, 5G-ready optical solutions are ideally suited for Openreach’s future-proof network requirements and we believe they will enable next-gen digital experiences for homes and businesses across the UK.”

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