Openreach recruits 3,000 engineers as fibre plans accelerate

Openreach is accelerating its plans for ultrafast broadband with the hiring of 3,000 new trainee engineers and the addition of 11 new Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) locations.

The company already has more than 24,000 engineers but is expanding its workforce to assist with the upgrade and maintenance of its nationwide network. Around half of the new recruits will be responsible for the full fibre rollout.

To train the new engineers, BT has opened a new school in Peterborough which will form part of a network of 12 such facilities.

Openreach fibre

The BT-owned organisation has already connected 1.9 million homes and businesses using a combination of G.Fast, which speeds up copper connections, and Fibre to the Premise (FTTP), and plans to reach 5.7 million by the end of the decade.

It has also expressed an interest in reaching 10 million by the mid-2020s – if it has the right investment conditions. Having previously maintained that making use of copper assets was the fastest way to bring superfast broadband to as many people as possible using Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), BT has now adopted a “fibre first” strategy.

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 latest FTTP locations are Bury, Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Croydon, Greater Glasgow region, Harrow, Merton, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton Coldfield, and Salford, bringing the total number up to 25.

“In the last year, we’ve learnt to build at high quality, and at a competitive cost,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley. “This year, we’ll prove that we can build the network on a vast scale and connect customers seamlessly.

“We’re making great progress towards reaching our target of upgrading three million homes and businesses to full fibre by the end of 2020 – reaching another 13k premises per week – and these new recruits will play a crucial role in that programme.

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

As part of its commitment to the FTIR, Openreach will publish information about its FTTP rollout – including exchanges to be upgraded – every three months.

“We’re committed to being the UK’s national provider, so on top of our recruitment plans announced today, we’ve made public the next 11 locations where we’ll start building over the next 12 months,” added Selley. “We’ll also be publishing updated plans every three months to give people a clear idea of where we’re building.”

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.