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​Openreach to consult on future investment in Britain’s digital infrastructure

Press Release   •   May 11, 2017 07:11 BST

  • Plans to explore support for a large-scale ‘full fibre’ broadband network
  • Consulting on new technology to deliver faster speeds to three per cent1of the UK without access to 10Mbps connectivity or above
  • New consultation processes - including confidential process for Communications Providers to discuss potential future investments 

Openreach, the UK’s leading telecoms network infrastructure provider, will consult with its Communications Provider (CP) customers on how best to enhance broadband connectivity across Britain.

The company, which provides broadband infrastructure to more than 580 CPs, will seek customer input on two major policy issues for the UK - building the investment case for a large-scale ‘full fibre’ network and bringing faster broadband speeds to ‘not-spots’ which can only order less than 10 Mbps services today.

Exploring the case for more ‘full fibre’ networks

Openreach has already stated its ambition to make ultrafast speeds of more than 100Mbps available to 12 million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. However, the business is keen to explore conditions which might allow it to invest in more ‘full fibre’ - Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) - infrastructure.

The consultation will look at the demand for FTTP, the potential benefits and costs of a larger scale FTTP deployment, and the enablers needed to support investment. Openreach is currently in a scoping phase and anticipates launching a formal consultation in the summer.

Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach said:“We are committed to continuing our investment in the infrastructure Britain needs to support our thriving digital economy. We want to work closely with Communications Providers to explore how we do that. With the right conditions we could make full fibre connections available to as many as 10 million homes and businesses by the mid-2020s, but we need to understand if there’s sufficient demand to justify the roll-out, and support – across industry, Ofcom and government – for the enablers needed to build a viable business case.”

Helping to deliver faster universal broadband coverage

Openreach today also launched a consultation with CPs on the next steps for an emerging broadband technology called Long Reach VDSL – which has been proven to increase broadband speeds over long phone lines connected to its fibre cabinets.

This technology could help to deliver universal broadband coverage in line with the Government’s policy objectives – set out in the Digital Economy Act – which seek to give everybody in the UK the right to request a broadband speed of at least 10Mbps.

By the end of this year, 95% of the UK is expected to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above – and as of today, just three per cent of the country cannot order a service offering 10Mbps or faster according to independent analysis by Thinkbroadband.

The consultation process will enable Openreach to determine the best ways to deploy Long Reach VDSL technology with CPs to optimise the benefits for customers and to help the Government’s objective of delivering universal connectivity in the UK.

Improving the way Openreach collaborates with customers

Openreach has also announced changes to the way it plans to engage with industry. This includes a confidential process that will allow its CP customers the opportunity to discuss new strategic initiatives privately with Openreach, prior to any potential public consultation.

The moves form part of Openreach’s preparation for greater functional separation from BT Group, its parent company, alongside the creation of an independent board structure and commitments to improve standards for customer service. It is hoped that more private discussions with CPs will lead to greater openness and collaboration across the communications industry and result in better outcomes for connected homes, businesses and people throughout Britain.

Openreach has been working closely with customers, the regulator Ofcom, and the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator to define the new collaboration processes, and it has now shared these proposals with the industry to seek views and improvements.

Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach added: “Everyone in Britain should have access to a decent broadband speed – so we support the Government’s moves to make that a reality.

“We’ve been working hard to develop faster, affordable ways to connect remote locations and we’ve been pleased with the initial technical field results of our Long Reach VDSL trials, but we need Communications Providers’ support to make sure their customers can be upgraded and migrated smoothly to this new platform.

“Every Communications Provider in Britain can already access our national network on equal terms and conditions and I’m convinced that providing a mechanism to explore investment opportunities confidentially will lead to stronger relationships and more teamwork in addressing the major challenges we face as an industry.”

ENDS

[1] Think Broadband, May 8th 2017

About Openreach

Openreach is the UK’s leading digital infrastructure provider.

Its 32,000 employees are responsible for building and maintaining millions of miles of fibre and copper cables that connect every home and business in the UK to local telephone exchanges. Openreach operates and maintains this network to deliver a range of wholesale services for more than 580 retail providers, who in-turn provide telephony, broadband, TV and data services to more than 30 million consumer and business customers throughout the country.

Openreach is a highly regulated business, with more than 90 per cent of its revenues generated from services that are regulated by Ofcom. Any company can access its products under exactly the same prices, terms and conditions.

Over the last decade, Openreach has invested more than £10bn into its network and is currently building the UK’s largest fibre broadband footprint. This technology is available to more than 26 million homes and businesses, with tens of thousands more gaining access each week.

Openreach is a wholly owned and independently governed division of the BT Group. For the year ended 31 March 2017, it reported revenues of £5.1bn.

For more information, visitopenreach.co.uk

About BT

BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services. BT consists of six customer-facing lines of business: Consumer, EE, Business and Public Sector, Global Services, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit www.btplc.com