Openreach doubles rural fibre rollout target

(Image credit: Openreach)

Openreach is doubling the number of rural homes and businesses it plans to connect to full fibre by 2026, meaning 6.2 million premises in some of the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK will have access to its fastest broadband speeds.

The Openreach network is not only used by parent company BT, but also by other broadband providers including Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone, and by mobile operators who require backhaul for their masts.

BT recently increased its national fibre rollout target by five million to 25 million premises following a series of regulatory and government policy developments which it believes allows it to make a fair return on its investment.

BT fibre target

The government considers fibre connectivity to be an essential element of its economic strategy as it will spread the benefits of a digital society across the country and narrow the digital divide. Its target is 85% coverage by 2025.

Openreach is one of several firms building fibre to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure across the UK, along with CityFibre, Virgin Media and others. However it has the largest footprint of any infrastructure operator in the UK, meaning confirmation that its rollout will cover so many urban properties helps the government’s ambition and reduces the need for subsidies.

The majority of properties around 1,100 exchange locations will benefit including coastal and isolated areas of Cumbria, Kent, Wales and Orkney. An added benefit is the creation of 1,000 new jobs to support the rollout.

Openreach believes it can connect four million premises a year, or 75,000 a week, thanks to its recruitment programme and technological developments.

“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,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley.

“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.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.