February 1, 2018 // 10:30 a.m.
Openreach, BT's now at least partially split wholesale services division, has announced the launch of its 'Fibre First programme,' through which it hopes to offer three million homes and businesses fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connectivity by the end of 2020.
Increasing its previous 2020 target by 50 percent, Openreach's Fibre First programme will begin with Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Manchester receiving fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connectivity starting later this year, to be followed by an additional 30-plus as-yet unnamed cities between now and 2020. Unlike the company's fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services, which use digital subscriber line (DSL) technologies over traditional copper telephone wiring for their last-mile connectivity, FTTP connections use fibre cabling for their entire length right to the subscriber's door - meaning, in theory at least, higher maximum speeds and reduced variance in speed with distance from the exchange or cabinet.
'Through the Fibre First programme, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an Ultrafast Britain. We are accelerating our plans to build FTTP to three million premises by 2020 which sets the course to reach ten million by the mid-2020s with the right conditions. Where possible going forward, we will "fibre first,"' claims Clive Selley, Openreach chief executive, of the programme. 'Working closely with central and local government and our communication provider customers, we will identify the cities, towns and rural areas where we can build a future-proofed, FTTP network that’s capable of delivering gigabit speeds to all homes and businesses at an affordable cost. We’ll continue to invest in our people and we’re already in the process of re-training and upskilling to make Fibre First a reality. We plan to hire around 3,000 engineers in 2018/19 to kick-start Fibre First and further improve the reliability and performance of our existing networks.'
Openreach has confirmed, however, that while it will be approaching high-speed network roll-outs with a view to FTTP connectivity first and foremost it will not be abandoning its DSL-based Gfast copper connectivity and that areas receiving FTTP will not receive Gfast and vice-versa. The company estimates the cost of rolling FTTP connectivity out to a city to be around £300-400 per premises covered, with the connectivity cost dropping to £150-175 if battery backups are ditched for non-enterprise customers.