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Openreach responds to Fix Britain’s Internet broadband campaigners

Openreach CEO Clive Selley has criticised rival broadband providers campaigning for the separation of the infrastructure business from its parent, BT, saying they are ignoring important facts

BT Openreach has criticised the communications services providers (CSPs) behind the ongoing Fix Britain’s Internet campaign for failing to put across a number of important facts about the current state of the UK’s broadband infrastructure.

The organisation’s CEO, Clive Selley, who took up his post this year, said the anti-BT campaign was missing part of the picture. He was speaking on a media update call, during which he expanded on the progress Openreach is trying to make around persistent areas of criticism, such as its focus on fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) or slack customer service.

The CSP consortium behind Fix Britain’s Internet – Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone – are trying to get as many people as possible to take part in an ongoing Ofcom consultation on the future of the relationship between BT and Openreach, with a view to formally separating the two.

Earlier this week, BT teamed up with Virgin Media, which does not run services over the Openreach network, to run a series of joint advertisements in national broadsheet newspapers to put its side of the story across in opposition to the picture painted by Fix Britain’s Internet.

“The situation is very simple,” said Selley. “We need to get the facts out there, and the facts are that between ourselves and Virgin Media, we actually have a Europe-leading broadband infrastructure. We are able to deliver superfast speeds to a larger proportion of the UK population than Germany, Spain or Italy.

“The facts show that we are in a decent position, but we do understand we need to get real momentum on the transition from superfast to ultrafast. Of course there is more to do, but we start from a pretty decent position. There are others trying to tell a different story, but we just want the facts out there.”

Selley declined to go into detail about the discussions between the BT Group and Ofcom, but said that in his view, the proposals laid out by BT with a view to establishing a functionally separate Openreach without resorting to full structural separation met all the demands set out by Ofcom earlier this year.

Ultrafast a joint responsibility

Selley said the transition of customers from obsolete asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) broadband services to “superfast” fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) backed very high bit rate digital subscriber line (VDSL) services was a “joint responsibility” for Openreach and its CSP customers.

He stopped short of making any new commitments to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) beyond those already made in regard to high streets, business parks and new-build housing estates, but did announce a ramping up of trials with a view to beginning full commercial deployment of the technology in 2017.

Initial trials with 550 customers in Cambridgeshire, south Wales and Tyneside had all progressed well, said Selley, with average headline speeds topping out at around 300Mbps, currently par for the course with technology outside of lab conditions.

BT has now formally confirmed China’s Huawei and Finland’s Nokia as its equipment partners, and will shortly embark on a pilot network build to about 25,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and Kent. will come in two speed tiers, up to 160/30Mbps and up to 330/50Mbps, with pricing and terms and conditions to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Selley said 140,000 more homes and businesses across the UK would now be able to connect to by the end of March 2017, with further network builds announced in Bolton, Cheltenham, Derby, Donaldson in southeast Scotland, Langside in Glasgow, Luton, Rusholme in Manchester, St Austell, Swindon, Sheffield, and Balham and Upton Park in London.

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