Openreach accelerates UK full-fibre build

BT broadband provision division claims significant milestone in its full-fibre build programme, revealing it is more than a quarter of the way to reaching 25 million homes by December 2026

Openreach has announced that it has now brought full-fibre broadband to more than seven million homes and businesses across the UK, including more than two million in what it says is the hardest-to-reach “final third” of the country.

Claiming to have already built the new technology to more than a quarter of its target footprint, Openreach said its engineers were installing about 800 metres of cable every minute and passing more than 50,000 new homes and businesses every week. The end result was that it was confident of being on track to reach 25 million premises in the UK by December 2026.

It added that it was now handling about 35,000 new orders every week, with more than 1.5 million homes and businesses already connected to its full-fibre network to gain gigabit broadband connectivity.

The network additions are in 36 locations covering both rural and urban areas, including Accrington, Lancashire; Boldon, Tyne & Wear; Dudley, West Midlands; Hornchurch, Greater London; Kemptown, Brighton; Manningham, West Yorkshire; and West Houghton, Greater Manchester. This means that overall, more than 2,700 towns, cities, boroughs, villages and hamlets are now included in Openreach’s build programme.

Boosting adoption of the network, more than 40 UK communication providers, including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone, have now signed up to Openreach’s long-term wholesale full-fibre pricing offer, known as Equinox, launched in October 2021.

“We are the UK’s leading network builder – going further and faster than all our competitors put together – and we are still getting faster and building further every week, every quarter, and that’s important because it signals to the markets that we’re delivering what we promised,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley. “This is a life-changing technology and we are delighted to be adding more towns and villages to our build programme today.

“More than seven million homes can now connect to our full-fibre network, which is a fantastic achievement. We’ve come a long way – it took eight years for us to pass our first million premises, but only four months to pass our latest million.”

As it was expanding its full-fibre reach, Openreach also noted added momentum in its programme to stop selling legacy analogue phone services, giving notice on a further 46 exchanges covering more than 380,000 premises where it is building full-fibre, to encourage the adoption of new digital services.

Openreach announced its plan in 2020, proposing that by December 2025, the existing network would have reached end of life and new digital services would be in use. The programme is intended to result in homes and businesses not being able to buy copper broadband if they are upgrading, regrading or switching telecoms provider, and instead will only be able to order fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP or full-fibre) broadband networks.

The latest announcement brings the total number of Openreach locations now notified for “stop sell” to almost 600 exchanges covering about five million premises.

Selley added: “We believe that full-fibre is the future for the UK and that’s why we want to deliver full-fibre broadband to 25 million UK homes and businesses by December 2026. The shift from copper to fibre will be every bit as significant as the move from analogue to digital and black and white TV to colour.

“By eventually retiring analogue phone lines, we will be creating a simplified network that allows us to meet the enhanced needs of an increasingly digital society.”

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