Openreach is mulling a big fibre rollout to supercharge UK’s broadband

Major rollout expansion could bring FTTP to many more homes

Freshly sprung from the clutches of BT, Openreach is considering seriously supercharging the rollout of FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises – ultrafast internet connections run directly to the home or office) in the UK, and the firm has announced that it will hold a consultation on the matter.

This emerged with the revelation of BT’s latest fiscal results, in comments from the CEO of BT, Gavin Patterson, who talked about becoming the UK’s ‘digital champion’, investing further in the country’s digital infrastructure.

He then added: “To that end, Openreach has today announced that it’s consulting with customers and industry stakeholders on the business case that could support better rural broadband and a large scale fibre-to-the-premises rollout across the UK.”

Essentially, Openreach is looking at upping the scope of BT’s previous plans for the FTTP rollout.

Openreach currently has a goal of making ultrafast connections of at least 100Mbps available to some 12 million homes and business premises by the end of 2020 – but only 2 million of those would be full fibre (the remainder would be G.fast, which is effectively supercharged FTTC, and still uses a phone line for the last section of run from the fibre cabinet).

However, Openreach says it’s ‘keen’ to explore whether it could invest more in expanding this rollout, and given the use of the term ‘large-scale’, we can presume that the expansion the company is mulling is a considerable one.

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said that: “With the right conditions we could make full fibre connections available to as many as 10 million homes and businesses by the mid-2020s.”

Money matters

Openreach says it is currently scoping things out on a basic level, but will launch a formal consultation at some point this summer. This will weigh up the pros and cons of a bigger FTTP rollout, and most importantly, will look at where the financial support for such a project might come from.

That could potentially be the government, or of course ISPs themselves (including BT). Funding will, as ever, be critical.

As well as potentially juicing up its full fibre rollout, as BT’s CEO Patterson mentioned, Openreach is also looking at ways to more effectively bring faster broadband to rural and remote areas with poor connection speeds.

That involves launching another consultation on Long Reach VDSL, which is designed to provide a better connection over long copper phone lines connected to fibre cabinets.

Openreach reckons this could be a major part of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring that everyone in the country has access to a broadband line with a speed of at least 10Mbps.