UK full-fibre boost as Openreach expands, Gigaclear claims rural altnet leadership

Operators at both ends of the corporate scale make notable advances in their respective roll-outs of gigabit connectivity in the UK

The expansion of gigabit broadband connectivity in the UK is not only gaining pace, it is gaining across all ends of the spectrum of those delivering such services, exemplified by Openreach, the UK’s largest wholesale broadband network, publishing updated plans about where and when it is building ultrafast, full-fibre broadband across the UK, while alternative provider Gigaclear says it has consolidated its position as the UK’s largest rural alternative network after celebrating the connection of its 75,000th customer in April.

As part of its regular programme of build updates, BT-owned broadband provision firm Openreach announced 10 new locations where it plans to deliver gigabit-capable technology to a further 124,000 homes and businesses. The locations are spread across the UK in areas including Cheriton in Kent, Mexborough in South Yorkshire, Grangemouth in Scotland, and Morriston in Wales.  

Overall, more than 2,800 towns, cities, boroughs, villages and hamlets are now included in the company’s build programme, which is fundamental to the UK government achieving its target of delivering gigabit-capable broadband to 85% of the UK by 2025. The roll-out of full-fibre broadband to homes, businesses and public services across the country is part of a £15bn infrastructure project to provide reliable, fast broadband to 25 million homes and businesses nationwide that meets the needs of modern life.

Openreach added that since the pandemic, the UK’s internet usage has soared, doubling in 2020 and increasing year on year, with more data downloaded in 2022 than ever before. It predicted the rise in usage was set to continue as technology becomes more sophisticated and integral to people’s daily lives, with social changes such as working from home and the boom in online learning.

In March 2023, Openreach celebrated a major milestone in its upgrade of the UK’s broadband infrastructure, with the village of Ketton, Rutland, in the East Midlands of England, becoming the location of the 10 millionth build in its full-fibre roll-out programme. In December 2022, Openreach updated its website to include more information about when the build will start in each exchange location, and is now aiming to update this build information at a minimum of every three months to adjust timings and add new locations as necessary.

“Our strategy is to take full-fibre broadband to underserved rural communities where others fear to tread. We’re looking forward to reaching our next milestone of 100,000 customers”
Nick Rawlings, Gigaclear

At the other end of the connectivity spectrum, Gigaclear has been designing, building and operating new gigabit, full-fibre networks since 2011, and the connection of its 75,000th customer in April represents a doubling of its customer base in two years. In 2020, the company hired 120 engineers as part of its plan to boost its engineering capacity to support its rural broadband expansion.

Gigaclear’s chief marketing officer, Nick Rawlings, said reaching the landmark was a great achievement and would help propel the altnet to achieve the ambitious targets that have been set for the next 12 months.

“Our strategy is to take full-fibre broadband to underserved rural communities where others fear to tread,” he said. “We’re building our network and accelerating sales at a faster rate than ever before, as more and more consumers demand faster speeds and more reliable broadband. We’re looking forward to reaching our next milestone of 100,000 customers in the near future.

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