Openreach outlines ‘hard to reach’ full fibre build plans

Openreach has outlined plans to bring full fibre broadband to at least three million premises in some of the UK’s hardest-to-serve communities. This strategy aims to reduce the number of homes and businesses that will require taxpayer subsidies to upgrade.

The company has made full fibre available to more than 4.8 million homes and business so far, and this new five-year deployment plan includes the majority of homes and business in around 1100 exchange locations. This includes market and coastal towns, villages and hamlets spread across the UK. Locations include Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, Cardigan in Wales, Keswick in Cumbria and Allhallows in Kent.

Openreach is using a range of innovations and techniques to build full fibre to up to four million rural and urban premises a year under its commercial programme. This is equivalent to 75,000 premises per week, or 15,000 premises every working day.

Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach, said, “Building a new broadband network across the UK is a massive challenge and some parts of the country will inevitably require public funding. But our expanded build plan means taxpayer subsidies can be limited to only the hardest to connect homes and businesses - and we hope to see other companies step forward to build in the most rural areas too.

“This 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. We’re also delighted to continue bucking the national trend by creating thousands more jobs, with apprentices joining in their droves to start their careers as engineers.”

Sarah Lee, head of policy, Countryside Alliance, added, “This is certainly a step in the right direction after the government rolled back their commitment last year to deliver full fibre and gigabit capable broadband to the countryside by 2025. The rural economy is already 16 per cent less productive than the national average but has such big potential with more people working from home and opting for flexi-working.

“If you were to level up the countryside by delivering connectivity the economy has the potential to grow by up to £43bn in England alone. If we are to have a green recovery in this post covid world then delivering digital connectivity must remain a priority and Openreach must be applauded for making this commitment.”

These new plans also include an extension to the company’s recruitment drive, with a further 1,000 new roles being created in 2021 on top of the 2,500 jobs which were announced in December 2020.