Openreach CEO: Boris Johnson's 2025 fibre goal is a 'stretch'

(Image credit: Openreach)

Clive Selley, the CEO of Openreach, has called Boris Johnson’s call for full fibre coverage across the UK by 2025 “a stretch” given the practical realities of deployment.

Openreach’ fibre rollout target recently increased to 15 million properties by the mid-2020s, while the government has touted 2033 as a potential data to switch off the UK’s copper network.

However earlier this week, the Conservative Party leadership candidate said the current goals were “laughably unambitious” but did not elaborate on how he would acheive nationwide rollout any quicker.

Openreach fibre rollout

Speaking at Connected Britain, Selley said that although Openreach had the ability to accelerate the speed of rollout, it depended on other factors such as legislation and favourable regulatory policies.

“I think those targets should be regarded as ‘stretch numbers’,” he said. “[But] they’re not unrealistic and I applaud ambition. [In the past few years] there has been a sea change at Openreach and we have every capability in place to accelerate.

“We are absolutely on target for revised target of March 2021. We feel we have capabilitiy to hit or exceed the 15m target in mid-2020s. We just need government and regulators to pitch in.”

Selley’s views were echoed by new Hyperoptic COO Simon Holden.

“If [everyone in the UK] could just go away on holiday for a year then [fibre rollout] would be done by the time you get back,” he said, acknowledging that the technical capabilitiy of expanding deployment was not the issue.

“We know how to do it. Everyone else in the world has done this. We know the technology works

One of the biggest gaps in Johnson’s logic is that it won’t be economically viable to cover everyone in the UK with full fibre. Mobile operator Three is heavily pushing the idea of 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband to help fill in the gaps, while Selley also believes other connection methods will play a role.

“I do think we will cover the overwhelming majority of the UK with full fibre infrastructure but there are other technologies that will contribute like FWA and Low Earth Orbit Satellite, he added. “I think we should be open minded.”