Openreach has now connected 4.5m homes to fibre

(Image credit: Openreach)

Openreach has now connected more than 4.5 million homes and businesses across the UK to its full fibre network, reaching its first target ahead of schedule.

The BT-owned firm’s engineers have been working throughout the pandemic and have connected 1.9 million properties over the past year alone. The eventual aim is to reach 20 million premises by the end of the decade as part of a £12 billion investment.

This would mean up to one third of the country could access ultrafast speeds – including several major cities and up to three million properties in hard-to-reach areas.

Openreach fibre network

The current majority of the UK’s broadband infrastructure is delivered by fibre the cabinet (FTTC) technology that uses copper for the final few metres of a connection, but the industry and the government are now shifting towards a ‘fibre-by-default’ approach.

Openreach is one of several firms building fibre to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure across the UK, along with CityFibre, Virgin Media and others. As the UK’s largest wholesale provider, its network will be used to power gigabit services from the likes of BT retail, Sky and TalkTalk. Openreach says 17,000 customers are taking fibre services every week at present.

However, the company had warned that its programme was dependent on a “favourable” regulatory environment that would allow it to earn a return of its investment. Last week, Ofcom said it was unlikely to impose price controls on the fastest fibre services for at least a decade – a policy which has seen BT confirm its plans.

The government's own target is for 85% of the population to be covered by 2025.

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.