Openreach calls on CommScope to deliver full-fibre broadband network across UK

BT broadband provision division and wired and wireless network technology provider enter into partnership to accelerate pace of gigabit network roll-out

Adding to the list of technology partners it is working with as it attempts to hasten the pace at which it is extending gigabit broadband networks across the UK, broadband provider Openreach is investing in network connectivity technology from CommScope.

Aiming to drive the roll-out of our gigabit broadband across the UK as part of the government’s target of 85% coverage by 2025, Openreach’s fibre network had reached more than 170 city locations by March 2021, including Birmingham, Belfast, London and Manchester, and is also building in more than 550 market towns and villages.

The BT-owned provider said it had built full-fibre for more than 1.9 million premises so far this year, and was 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.

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 communications providers coming on board. New orders were said to have reached about 17,000 a week on average in the first quarter of 2021.

Explaining the reasons for its partnership with Openreach, Rhyl-based CommScope said there were many ways of creating a full-fibre broadband network that would meet the demands of the near future. However, it added that finding the best solution long-term required a deep understanding of a wide range of parameters, goals and the use of the right tools. 

It cited the example of delays in installations that usually happen in the last mile. This, said CommScope, was partially attributable to traditional methods of placing and splicing fibre cables, which take time, especially since splicing requires highly skilled labour, which can be hard to find. 

To address these types of challenges faced in the field, CommScope said it had configured its Novux platform specifically for Openreach’s build programme. Engineers will have access to hardened terminals, designed to enhance health and safety with less time spent on the pole. Another element in the Openreach collaboration will be that approximately 30-50 manufacturing engineers will be hired by CommScope in its home location. They will assemble connectorised block terminals, the fibre connection point where individual fibres connect to a premise’s main fibre cable. 

“Building a new broadband network across the UK is a hugely complex, nationwide engineering project – second only to HS2 in terms of investment. It will help level up the UK because the impact of full-fibre broadband stretches from increased economic prosperity and international competitiveness to higher employment and environmental benefits by enabling more home working and fewer commuting trips,” said Kevin Murphy, managing director for fibre and network delivery at Openreach.

“We place huge importance in our partner network and seek long-term and strategic collaborations. CommScope is a great example of this, and this sustained partnership means we can benefit from its teams’ skills and innovation to help us build full-fibre even further,” he added.

“We’re also delighted that CommScope shares our belief in investing locally, and the Novux technology manufactured in Wales will empower our engineers to overcome complex engineering challenges across the UK,” said Murphy.

“This initiative is an important part of the UK’s future, and we’re proud to be leading the charge with Openreach on its mission to maximise billions in investment in connecting specific local areas with dedicated full-fibre networks,” said CommScope’s executive vice-president, chief technology officer and segment leader for broadband networks, Morgan Kurk. 

“Our combined team of engineers, field technicians and staff are motivated by their role in making a difference to a flourishing startup business or by ensuring families can stream high-bandwidth content in their homes,” he added.

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