Openreach claims record for broadband upgrade locations

Latest steps in UK’s leading broadband provider’s plans to go fully digital sees ultrafast full-fibre technology made available to 14 million homes

Just days after its parent company, BT Group, announced it was pushing back its timetable for moving all customers off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) from the end of 2025 to the end of January 2027, Openreach has published updated plans to build full-fibre broadband to 517 more locations across the UK, covering a further 2.7 million homes and businesses.

To realise its plan on a national basis, BT Group is in the process of transitioning more traditional lines across the UK onto digital services. Following the decision to shut down the PSTN, it was agreed to test processes for migrating customers to fibre services, and ultimately withdraw legacy copper services and the wholesale line rental products that rely on them.

Openreach’s £15bn project aims to upgrade the UK’s broadband infrastructure, making gigabit-capable technology available to 25 million homes and businesses, including 6.2 million in rural areas. According to research by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), full-fibre transformation could give a £72bn boost to the output of the UK economy in 2030. This, said Openreach, would be the equivalent of 294,960 new SMEs being created across the country, or adding 25 new businesses in every local council in the UK.

Openreach first announced in 2019 that the PSTN will have reached the end of its life by 2025, and that new digital services will be in use by then. At the heart of the programme is the belief by BT’s broadband provision division that legacy network skills and parts are increasingly difficult to come by, and that new digital services such as Voice over IP (VoIP), video conferencing and other business applications have become more popular and effective for people communicating with one another. Openreach regards the shift from copper to fibre networks as every bit as significant as the move from analogue to digital, and black and white TV to colour.

In practical terms, Openreach has been implementing what it calls a Stop Sell process that is triggered when a majority (75%) of premises connected to a particular exchange can get a full-fibre connection. Customers who then want to switch, upgrade or re-grade their broadband or phone service will have to take a new digital service over Openreach’s full-fibre network.

The business is giving communications providers such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone, which all use its network, a year’s notice that it will no longer be selling legacy analogue products and services in these circumstances. Openreach calculates that by the summer, the Stop Sell rules will be active in more than 700 exchanges – covering around six million premises.

Openreach said it’s building its next-generation network to more than 78,000 premises every week, and that means another home or business could order a new full-fibre service every six seconds. More than 4.7 million homes and businesses have already upgraded to full-fibre via dozens of communications providers using the Openreach network, and demand continues to flow, with more than 50,000 orders being placed per week.

Read more about UK analogue switch off

  • BT Group pushes back digital switchover deadline: UK’s leading telco extends deadline by just over 12 months for transformation to an all-digital infrastructure, and offers dedicated support for businesses to make necessary steps.
  • Openreach ups pace of copper network switch-off: UK’s largest broadband provider maintains pace of digital network transformation adding nearly 100 locations to its roster of communications exchanges that are now able to offer digital comms based on full-fibre network.
  • BT accelerates digital network roll-out: Added vigour to UK’s largest broadband provider’s digital network transformation play, with latest tranche of exchanges across furthest reaches of UK now able to offer digital comms based on full-fibre networks
  • Momentum builds for UK analogue switch off: UK’s largest comms provider announces plans to switch off analogue services in areas including the country’s densest metropolitan areas and in rural communities.

Overall, around 3,500 towns, cities, boroughs, villages and hamlets are now included in the company’s build programme, and, as the network grows, so does the number of people wanting to benefit from this transformational technology.

The new tranche of locations includes 400,000 premises in the hardest-to-reach, most-rural parts of the UK, including Tobermory in Scotland; Haworth in West Yorkshire; Saundersfoot in South Wales; Pinxton in Derbyshire; Harlow in Essex; Southampton in Hampshire; and Roborough in Devon.

Commenting on the deployment, Openreach CEO Clive Selley said: “This is a UK infrastructure success story. We’re on track and on budget to make this life-changing broadband technology available to 25 million homes and businesses, and no company is building faster or further in Europe, that we’re aware of.

“We plan to build right across the UK, from cities and towns to far-flung farms and island communities,” he said. “Ultimately, we’ll reach as many as 30 million premises by the end of the decade if there’s a supportive political and regulatory environment.”

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