3 million Openreach full fibre premises planned by 2020
The original commercial superfast broadband roll-outs from Openreach included a lot more full fibre than was eventually delivered, but as the time and cost of delivery became apparent this was scaled back, jump forward a few years and after having learnt how to halve the cost of its fibre deployment to premises we have the welcome news that Openreach is accelerating its current 2 million premises passed by FTTP to 3 million premises passed with a delivery deadline of 2020.
With the current footprint sitting at a declared 500,000 (our count is 457,544) premises, adding another 2.5 million in two years means an impressive 100,000 per month are needed. We suspect that with the end of many of the big parts of the BDUK programme that more resources are now available to focus on their pure commercial work.
"We're accelerating our fibre to the premises build programme by 50% to reach 3 million homes by 2020. This sets us on the right trajectory to achieve our ambition of a 10 million FTTP footprint by the mid-2020's and, if the conditions are right, to go significantly beyond, and bring FTTP to the majority of homes and businesses across the UK."Clive Selley, CEO Openreach
The roll-out is said to be starting in earnest in a few months and be focussed on eight cities Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
Some of these cities are already seeing FTTP, for example some premises in central Bristol already have access to FTTP, and in the last few days bits of the London West End such as around the National Gallery have been spotted with access to full fibre. To add some of the premises covered on the Whitehall exchange were previously Exchange Only lines, i.e. the fact that full fibre does not need a VDSL2 cabinet means EO lines can and are benefiting, just like all the roll-outs they are not coming to everyone all at the same time.
The press release from Openreach talks about passing 27 million homes and businesses with superfast broadband and has used this figure before, we believe that this means Openreach is working from a premise count of 30.2 million premises for the United Kingdom so long as the use of superfast is correct, this is significantly higher than our figure of 28.92 million and while we believe there is scope for the addition of 100,000 to 200,000 buildings no signs that we are over a million premises short. Ofcom works with a 29.3 million premise count. In our counting Openreach has passed 26.70 million premises with FTTC or FTTP which is why we mentioned a question mark around the use of the word superfast, and once you allow for the attenuation caused by distance access to 30 Mbps and faster drops to 25.83 million. So if there is a this difference what might be causing it, possibly counting premises with multiple physical phone lines based on the phone line count, adding infrastructure such as green street cabinets (100,000), telephone boxes and other things such as ice monitoring equipment and a myriad of street furniture where you can apparently order Openreach services to.
Update February 2nd The latest BT Group financial results for Q4 2017 have confirmed that the superfast Openreach footprint is 27.4 million premises, erasing any doubt that the figure for coverage in this article on expanded FTTP rollout was a combined all operator figure.
Update 9:45am CityFibre has reacted in what could be described as a robust manner with a statement on the expansion.
As a business founded to deliver a new digital infrastructure platform for the UK, we welcome any contribution, from any source, that supports a drive towards national coverage. Today’s announcement from Openreach is a clear response to competition from CityFibre and other alternative full fibre infrastructure builders.
It is clear that it’s in UK consumers’ and businesses’ best interests to deliver full fibre connectivity to the maximum possible number of premises in the shortest possible time and at the best possible value.
CityFibre and Vodafone is already leading the way, with a long-term strategic partnership that will bring ultrafast Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to up to five million UK homes and businesses, approximately 20% of the UK market, by 2025.
It is recognised by government and Ofcom that the time has come to reduce the public’s dependency on Openreach. It is not in the UK’s best interest to encourage further entrenchment of the incumbent monopoly. As successfully demonstrated all over the world, it is a new generation of infrastructure builders that are best placed to deliver full fibre – able to deliver the next generation of digital connectivity faster and at lower prices than incumbent operators.CityFibre statement on Openreach FTTP expansion
On the one hand we have CityFibre saying the Openreach announcement is in reaction to competition from CityFibre, suggesting competition may be a good way to drive firms to do more commercially, but on the other hand it is not in UK's best interest to encourage more roll-out of full fibre by Openreach. As for the new generation being faster to deliver and at lower prices, both of these are actually easier for new firms with new capital and no legacy problems like debt or pension liabilities and regulation that would quickly stop them from massively undercuting rivals. So we await the day we can state categorically that Openreach is not the largest FTTP provider in the UK. As for the monopoly remember that half the UK has a Virgin Media cable option and just below half for many years, as always only time will bring the answer as to how much the expansion by CityFibre and others who may be less brash is outside the existing footprint where Openreach is competing with Virgin Media already.
Update 1:35pm Hyperoptic who we believe is the second largest full fibre operator in the UK has sent out a statement on the Openreach announcement.
Hyperoptic welcomes naysayers Openreach to the Full Fibre table but find their motives and focus suspect. For years, Hyperoptic have been leading the Full Fibre transformation, ensuring that our cities are ready for their digital futures, while Openreach has focused on fibre to the cabinets and convincing the country that we’d never need more than 30 mbps.
During that same period, Hyperoptic has rolled out Full Fibre to 30 cities and enabled a digital transformation within those catchment areas. Indeed, 1 in 7 central London and Manchester residents have access to Full Fibre, and across the Openreach’s future phase 1 territories Hyperoptic already cover 10% of properties with plans already in progress for our greater vision. We re-iterate and confirm our target for 2m homes passed for 2020 and 5m for 2025.
We also call on Ofcom to ensure that the Fibre First announcement is not a distraction from fulfilling the strategy of 2016’s Digital Communications Review, which rightly concluded that the UK is best served with Infrastructure competition. Openreach must be regulated to use its own duct and pole product when implementing its FTTP roll out so there is equivalent opportunity to build FTTP networks at scale and that Fibre First isn’t just a marketing name for Openreach’s Fibre Monopoly.
Hyperoptic has demonstrated its ability and commitment to transforming broadband into future proofed digital connectivity. Our customers enjoy 1 Gb connectivity for 20% less than BT’s 300 Mb product and with a customer satisfaction score of over 92% its proof that a competitive infrastructure environment is good for consumers.
Lets get away from accepting short term solutions at the expense of the digital future of the UK.Dana Tobak CBE, CEO and MD of Hyperoptic