Openreach to connect millions more houses to rural fibre

(Image credit: Openreach)

Openreach has promised to connect 3.2 million rural properties to fibre broadband after Ofcom said it would consider allowing the company to recoup investment costs in the prices it charges wholesale customers.

The BT-owned company had previously pledged to cover four million properties by March 2021 and 15 million by the end of the decade. However it had said it could go much further provided the appropriate regulatory environment and government support are in place.

The government believes that up to 80 per cent of the country will be covered by commercial deployments from Openreach and others. Some have placed the total cost of extending coverage nationwide – including rural areas – at £30 billion.

Openreach fibre

As much as £5 billion in public funding has been earmarked towards the endeavour and Ofcom’s proposals to ease regulations will sweeten the deal.

Ofcom regulates the cost of wholesale fibre access in the UK and had told Openreach it was willing to review its regulations should it receive a firm commitment to expand rural coverage. Should Openreach fail to meet these commitments, then Ofcom could lower the price in the future.

Now Openreach has made such a commitment, Ofcom is ready to adapt its policies.

The addition of 3.2 million premises to Openreach’s rollout plans means up to 20 million homes and businesses could be covered by the end of the decade as part of a £12 billion investment.

The company will make a lost of the locations it plans to connect in order to provide certainty to local authorities, consumers and wholesale customers.

“We’re determined to find inventive engineering solutions and effective partnership funding models to reduce costs and enable us to connect as many communities as possible across the UK without public subsidy,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley.

“Openreach is leading the charge to help Government achieve its target of making gigabit capable networks available nationwide by 2025. And we hope that by publishing our own plans, we can help ensure that taxpayers only fund connections in communities that really need public support.”

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.