Openreach to scale back G.fast roll-outs as full fibre to take priority
The original ambition for G.fast was to roll-out it to 10 million premises by some date in 2020 and the last set of financial results indicated that some 1.1 million premises had been passed by the pods, on Thursday we learnt that the 10 million is being revised down to 5.7 million premises.
Full fibre’s our priority and we accelerated our investment plans to reflect that. 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. Gfast 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.Openreach spokesperson on changes to G.fast
The downside if you take a technology neutral stance is that by dropping 4 million G.fast premises as a result of the expansion in the full fibre from 2 million to 3 million premises that there is going to be around 3 million premises without the option of an ultrafast service from Openreach (based on the original plan been being 10 million G.fast plus 2 million FTTP). In terms of the ultrafast world league tables this is likely to have little impact as a lot of the G.fast roll-out to date has overlapped with the Virgin Media DOCSIS network.
One can see a a couple of warnings within this change for the UK full fibre ambitions which are very much about making the UK look better on the world broadband stage and that is full fibre is still more labour intensive than G.fast and doing both at once was difficult. Many years ago the opposite happened when the FTTP roll-outs were scaled back to allow the easier to deploy VDSL2 service roll-outs to continue at a high pace in an Openreach that was struggling with splicing lots of fibre. The second warning is that as a massive amount of the full fibre roll-outs that the Government is hoping will reach 50% coverage by 2025 is being done under commercial control and if markets and regulatory pressures shift firms are free to change their plans.
While we have your attention a few small updates, our footprint of known live G.fast is at 586,818 premises (2,093 pods) up from 539,000 on the 7th August, Plymouth and Paignton are just two of the new areas that will appear on our maps soon, the pods went into our coverage database last night.
On the full fibre roll-outs, that has jumped from 529,000 to 530,402 in the same 3 day period and an interesting development is that we are now seeing almost complete VDSL2 cabinets overlaid with FTTP particularly in Northern Ireland and this is not infill as we are seeing it made available to premises with full speed VDSL2 availability. The majority of the full fibre we have seen under the 'Fibre First' banner to date has been Exchange Only line upgrades in city centres and we knew the shift to overlaying VDSL2 was going to take place soon. Our availability checker currently prioritises FTTP providers, but with the overlay now covering fast VDSL2 areas and the limited choice of provider on GEA-FTTP we will coding changes in the next week or two to ensure that the VDSL2 options will also appear - until now this has not been an issue since where FTTP has usually overlaid VDSL2 the VDSL2 speeds were often below 10 Mbps.