20 million FTTP premises build is go as Ofcom gives certainty
It now looks like the Openreach ambition to build 20 million premises of FTTP by the mid to late 2020's has been confirmed. The trigger has not been an amazing transformation at Openreach but rather the latest statement from Ofcom over how it plans to encourage FTTP roll-outs and a decade of relative certainty that this provides for Openreach to make a long term commitment.
This is good news for all fibre providers in the UK. For us, it is the greenlight we’ve been waiting for to get on and build like fury. Full fibre broadband will be the foundation of a strong BT for decades to come and a shot in the arm for the UK as we build back better from this pandemic. Connecting the country has never been more vital.
So BT and Openreach are now confirming the plan for 20 million premises and they believe this means they can earn a fair return on their £12 billion investment in FTTP.
For the full detail of what Ofcom has done see the Ofcom website, but to summarise it quickly:
- Rather than continuing to force down prices of entry level copper and partial fibre (FTTC) services regulation will operate to keep these services prices flat in the real term. Important to note that this is referring to wholesale pricing, other factors can see retail prices increasing.
- The fastest Openreach full fibre services will remain free from regulation.
- For regulated full fibre products Openreach will be allowed to charge 'a bit more' for these products, reflecting the improved reliability and more consistent speeds.
- Ofcom is not expecting to introduce cost based regulation on fibre services for at least 10 years.
- Reviews will continue to ensure is not using offers to wholesale customer to stifle investment from competitors
- Regulations take effect in April 2021 and will last until March 2026.
We’ve now passed almost 4.5 million premises and are building faster, at lower cost and higher quality than anyone else in the UK. Today’s regulation will allow us to ramp up to 3 million premises per year providing vital next generation connectivity for homes and business right across the UK.Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach
This news will please the Government and its 85% Gigabit target since Openreach actually following through on its 20 million FTTP premises means at least 65% FTTP coverage (some will be built after the Gigabit 31st March 2026 deadline), combine this with the rural interventions, Virgin Media Gig1 and the 40+ other FTTP roll-outs things are looking like a lot of work still but still very positive. The big unknown is how much overlap there will be and as roll-outs mature in a number of areas such as Coventry this year it will be easier to predict what might happen in 5 years time.
Our tracking of exactly where the Openreach FTTP roll-out has gone live is obviously going to continue and the work on tracking this is set to be even busier as the last 12 months saw us find some 1,765,551 premises of Openreach FTTP and ramping up to 3 million premises a year is clearly a big leap in how busy Openreach engineering teams and sub contractors will be.
A lot of hate gets directed at BT and Openreach but in the race for FTTP the 1.7 million premises built in the last 12 months is a lot larger than the 1 million premises footprint from Virgin Media RFOG/FTTP and the CityFibre FTTP footprint which is 0.5 million premises. The Virgin Media and CityFibre figures are from the time they started building rather than just the last 12 months too.
The original switch to rolling our more FTTP from Openreach happened at a time that saw outside investment increase amongst its competitors. Now that competitors, new entrants and investors have some degree of certainty we might see another wave of investment as others see an opportunity both for smaller regional operators and large national competitors.