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COVID-19 – Openreach Update on Future G.fast and FTTP Plans

Monday, April 6th, 2020 (7:42 am) - Score 19,726

In an unsurprising development Openreach (BT) has informed UK broadband ISPs that, due to the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, future G.fast and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) build plans beyond last month “are not available.” Related engineering work to extend the network continues but has been scaled-back.

Until recently Openreach was happily ramping-up their gigabit-capable “full fibre” (FTTP) network build and had reached a peak of about 27,000 premises per week. The effort had put them well on their way to achieving the initial goal of 4 million premises passed by the end of March 2021 (expected to be followed by 15 million in 2025).

On top of that the operator was also due to announce the outcome of their G.fast review at the end of last month. The hybrid fibre technology currently covers 2,725,000 UK premises, but it remains unclear whether it will be extended much beyond this point because further deployments were placed under review last year (here); due in no small part to the greater focus on FTTP as the more future proof solution.

Sadly the COVID-19 situation and its impact on the workforce has already forced Openreach to scale-back a significant amount of non-essential engineering work (here). Despite this their core network expansion was still on-going and indeed the build pace hasn’t been too heavily impacted.. yet.

However on Wednesday last week Openreach put out a notice (POR), which said: “Due to Covid19 20/21 build plans beyond March 20 are not available, we will supply these as soon as possible.” Some delay to the FTTP roll-out – as well as other connectivity solutions – is a possibility and likewise the notice has also effectively put the outcome of their G.fast review on-hold.

A Spokesperson for Openreach told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Despite the impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic, Openreach is very much on track to reach its full fibre target of 4m homes and businesses by March 2021. At the current time, we have delayed giving our Communications Provider customers specific updated build forecast figures beyond March 2020 while we assess any potential impact of Covid-19 on the overall programme.

In general though, we’re continuing to build full fibre as this work mostly happens at a safe distance from members of the public, for example digging trenches along highways and verges. We have stopped a few activities however, like extending the network into multi dwelling units and we’re assessing any potential impact on the overall programme by working closely with the Government to factor in the new guidelines.”

We suspect that Openreach won’t be able to give a clear indication of how much the COVID-19 situation has impacted their deployment or future plans until the current crisis has started to subside. Some in the Government have suggested that we might start to see a softening of restrictions by June (lest we forget that the ultimate solution of a vaccine is still 1 year+ away), but the current crisis remains on-going and as such it’s very difficult for anybody right now to plan for an uncertain future.

In case it wasn’t obvious, the same is likely to be true for other network builders too. Few, if any, will escape this crisis without their plans suffering some change or delay.

UPDATE 11:19am

We’ve had an updated statement from Openreach.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“Despite the impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic, Openreach is very much on track to reach its full fibre target of 4m homes and businesses by March 2021. At the current time, we have delayed giving our Communication Customers updated build forecast figures beyond March ’20 while we assess any potential impact of Covid-19 on the overall programme.”

Leave a Comment
21 Responses
  1. Avatar Dave

    Crikey, was so lucky to get my FTTP install done on the 3rd April, drilled my own hole and begged the engineer to just do the outside bit and I’d do the inside (when they phoned originally to say they couldnt do it). All worked out great.

    • Avatar Herve Shango

      Covid 19 has messed up everything from the internet to jobs to life to be honest, I’m just hoping that things will get back to some form normality later on this year.

    • Avatar Ixel

      I imagine going forward, once we’re passed this crisis, things will change in the near future. More people will end up working from home, remotely, instead in office buildings. In this day and age the technology is there to do it, and there are many benefits for both the employee and employer.

  2. Avatar ChrisD

    Looks like Fergus Ewing (Scottish rural economy secretary who famously said he’d resign over R100 delays) has a pretty good excuse now…hmmm

  3. Avatar Stewart B

    Mark, my post code recently changed from “We don’t have plans to upgrade your area yet” to “Faster and more reliable fibre is coming to your area soon.”

    Is there anything to your knowledge that would change that, other than a few months delay of course?

    • Avatar Joe

      I think the openreach site has a checker which shows progress of your cabinet.

    • Avatar Darren

      means application and approval for a green box has started and is moving, go onto openreach as other person has said, make sute you register interest on there, also if you already have a line ask your provider to upgrade, let their offer be your benchmark for cost, check you local BT exchange and see which market your at check using a site called samknows.com, hth 😉

    • Avatar John

      As pointed out of you go to OpenReach.com and enter your postcode/address it will tell you what technology is coming to you.

      It’s further down the page it will tell you if it’s FTTP or G.Fast coming.

      If it’s G.Fast it might give additional info on how your cabinets upgrade is progressing.

      If it’s FTTP there is no such additional info. The next time the results change is to tell you that FTTP is available to order.

      With FTTC/G.Fast the upgrades is done to the cabinet so the same generic build progress report can be given to everyone on that cabinet (even though many will be out of range).

      With FTTP rollouts they don’t usually cover every property connected to a particular cabinet so updates would be harder to report via their website.

    • Avatar Stewart B

      Where’s the cabinet checker?

  4. Avatar Lee bage

    As an engineer I feel all your pain especially if you have a family that hasn’t lived without phones and the web.its time to go back to grass roots and start using your brains like we all done growing up.its a beautiful world out there.

  5. Avatar Rob.

    My FTTP installation has been delayed due to Covid-19 so they offered free ADSL until June although there’s a week delay in connection. I thought it was a very nice gesture.
    I considered 3 home broadband but I don’t like the latency of wireless.

    • Avatar Nick

      Hi Rob, 4g is a good alternative. I install an external combined high gain antenna and router. I have installed these in various locations across North Yorkshire with great success. I have found in my area EE to be by far the best in terms of upload, download and availability.You are right the latency can be slower, normally around 35 to 40 but much better overall than adsl.

  6. Avatar Jake

    So pi$$ed at BT; due to upgrade from fibre to G-fast on 23rd March, 22nd got message saying it’s all going ahead despite Openreach clearly not going to come into property. Now we have nothing!!!

    • Avatar A. Realist

      Sounds to me like you need to take a step back and see what else is going on in the world.

    • Avatar Gary HILTON

      Unless you have a fault with your fibre then Gfast is a downgrade.

      We have the ASA ruling to thank for this confusion.

    • Avatar GNewton

      Why would someone go from from fibre to GFast? This is a step backwards. A fibre-optic line usually is far more reliable.

    • Avatar Curious

      I’m assuming they don’t know the first thing between FTTC and FTTP, and thinks they have a ‘fibre’ connection because they have FTTC (40/10 / 80/20).

      But, to be annoyed because they can’t have a few more Mbps to download a few more illegal movies when there’s by far more important issues going on in the world, this just shows how much of a nugget they really are.

  7. Avatar Bob

    Sounds like Jake was on FTTC and moving to GFAST but now has neither. Doubt very much if the cross-connect was made in the cabinet so perhaps the FTTC could have been re-enabled.
    It is frustrating when you need broadband for most things these days and especially in the current climate.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      Yup but as the work is PCP based it can be done maintaining social distancing.

      So the CP should be able to get OR to finish the job or revert.

      As to the internal works all he needs to do is plug in as the FTTC faceplate should work, just not quite as well as the latest one.

      So I’d be with the OP that the job can be finished to an it works OK standard without putting anyone at risk.

      The government has told people to work at home which is harder with out any broadband at all. So I do have some sympathy with the guy.

  8. Avatar Hmmm

    I would cancel it anyway it’s dangerous

  9. Avatar Dave Scott

    I have no problem with the ISPs in all the history I have been with different ISPs going back to 2003 I was with Freeserve/Wanadoo/Orange, BT and Vodafone. The only problem I have is a lack of understanding with Customer Service. But I always get my way. But I do understand there is a lack of understanding with people that aren’t clued up with this technology but with FTTC Fibre to the Cabinet VDSL2 Broadband. It’s all pretty much to do with wiring with your phone socket if you have the old NTE5 socket it may affect your speed and stability and over all Performance. And also with phone socket if you have extensions hard wired into your phone socket that may pick up interface. With your old NTE5 sockets open it up and disconnect the bell wire that orange wire. You should see white and a blue wire. The reason you disconnect the orange wire is because that wire used to be used for old phone that used the old bell to ring and that may pickup interface. And with the NTE5C the new socket you only need the white and blue wire and use cat6 twist pier with shellding between the master socket and VDSL2 Router with that RJ11 plugs and do not use those RJ11 flat cables there untwisted unshelled and they pickup interface.

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