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Openreach Start Consultation on Plan for Large Scale FTTP “Full Fibre” Rollout

Monday, Jul 17th, 2017 (5:24 pm) - Score 6,663

Openreach (BT) has today launched their consultation on the prospects for a “large-scale” roll-out of Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) ultrafast broadband technology across the United Kingdom by around 2025, which in theory could see the operator’s “full fibre” network reach up to 10 million premises.

At present the operator’s roll-out of 1Gbps capable FTTP technology is expected to reach 2 million homes and businesses by 2020, while their ‘up to’ 330Mbps hybrid-fibre G.fast solution will do 10 million premises by the same date and many more by 2025. However Ofcom, the EU and the Government all want to see more “full fibre” in Openreach’s diet.

The industry consultation, which was first mooted during early May 2017 (here), is currently only available for ISPs to view and it promises to investigate various related issues including “potential demand, network architecture, deployment choices and cost recovery options.”

Openreach has previously said that such a deployment would only work if they had support from major ISPs (e.g. TalkTalk, Sky Broadband), Ofcom and the Government (e.g. protection for their investment against aggressive regulation and or charge controls).

The operator has recently also hinted at a desire to move people on existing broadband products to FTTP, which might enable them to retire some of their copper services sooner rather than later.

Enablers that Openreach believes are necessary to unlock larger scale FTTP:

· Greater collaboration, including new investment, risk and cost sharing models.

· Agreement on how mass migration of customers onto the new platform can be achieved.

· Reducing logistical barriers, like improved planning and traffic management processes.

· Agreement on the right way to spread the costs of a FTTP investment.

· A legal and regulatory environment which encourages investment.

Since FTTP coverage is still very limited then it’s likely that Ofcom might be willing to offer a period of protective grace, much as they did for FTTC some years ago (note: the high cost of FTTP may require an even longer spell of protection).

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said:

“We’re determined to continue our investment in the infrastructure Britain needs to support our thriving digital economy and we want to build a much larger full fibre network, so we need to work closely with Communications Providers, government and Ofcom to achieve that.

By using new techniques, we recently halved the cost of delivering ‘full fibre’ infrastructure, but building a large-scale network is still a huge commercial, technical and logistical challenge that’s going to need real ingenuity, flexibility and coordination across government and industry.

With the right conditions we believe we could make FTTP 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 for the enablers needed to build a viable business case. That includes removing barriers to investment and incentivising those, like Openreach, who are prepared to take a commercial risk.

Full fibre broadband is faster, more reliable and simpler to maintain, and it has the potential power the UK’s economic success for a century, but it also requires a Victorian-scale vision, commitment and investment. The engineering, commercial and operational challenges are significant, but I believe that greater collaboration across the industry will help us to overcome them and build more Fibre-to-the-Premises infrastructure.”

At present it’s still early days and we don’t yet know precisely what kind of support Openreach will get from ISPs, although they’re unlikely to be direct financial contributors unless the operator agreed to make it easier for such providers to differentiate their services from the standard wholesale offerings. We can’t see that sort of debate ending in much agreement, but you never know.

Lest we forget that the 2017 Conservative Manifesto (here) set a target of 2022 for achieving 10 million premises “connected to full fibre” (FTTP/H). Mind you Alternative Network (AltNet) providers and Virgin Media might well be able to deliver around half of this requirement and Openreach’s existing plan for 2 million via FTTP already gets us quite close to the 10 million figure, but more will still be needed to hit the target.

At this point it feels almost inevitable that Openreach will do more FTTP than currently planned, although we’ll have to wait and see how much further they can go, as well as in what form it might take. For example, Openreach could sacrifice some of the planned 10 million+ G.fast premises and convert those to FTTP or the FTTP roll-out could be entirely separate from the current G.fast plan.

Otherwise Openreach has invited responses and any comments or views on this consultation must be sent in by 29th September 2017.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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