Openreach lowers G.Fast targets as fibre takes priority

BT Openreach will upgrade fewer copper lines with G.Fast than previously planned in recognition that full fibre connectivity is now the preferred technology of both industry and the government.

The vast majority of superfast broadband connections in the UK make use of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology, which uses copper for the final few hundred metres. G.Fast increases speeds on copper to about 330Mbps.

BT had previously maintained that making use of copper assets was the fastest way to bring superfast broadband to as many people as possible, but political pressure to roll out Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) had been growing.

Openreach fibre

Openreach’s customers, such as TalkTalk and Sky, have long called for greater investment in FTTP, while the government has reiterated calls for the UK’s digital infrastructure to be futureproofed. Following the separation of Openreach into a separate business, it has said it will adopt a ‘fibre-first’ strategy.

Several other providers, including Virgin Media, TalkTalk, CityFibre, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic are already building FTTP networks.

According to the Financial Times, Openreach will still upgrade 5.7 million homes and businesses to G.Fast over the next two years. However it will also install three million FTTP connections during the same period.

“Full fibre’s our priority and we accelerated our investment plans to reflect that,” an Openreach spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.

“Our engineers are already building FTTP to 10,000 premises each week and we’re on track to reach three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. Our ambition is to reach 10 million by the mid-2020s.

“We’re keen to make ultrafast broadband available to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. allows us to do that alongside our big full fibre build with little disruption to local communities, so we plan to upgrade more than five and half million premises using that technology.”

The government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) has called for 15 million properties to be covered by 2025 and for nationwide coverage to be completed by 2033. It would then consider switching off the UK’s copper network.

Mobile operators have continually called for the greater availability of fibre in the UK as these ultrafast connections will be essential to providing backhaul for the site and small cell infrastructure that will power 5G networks.

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.