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Openreach Target FTTP for 525,000 Northern Ireland Premises

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 (8:29 am) - Score 2,626

The pace of Openreach’s (BT) commercial deployment of “gigabit-capable” Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP technology in Northern Ireland continues to impress, with the operator today confirming that they’ve just passed 360,000 premises (up by 100,000 since January 2020 alone) and intend to go much further.

The impact of Openreach’s latest update means that nearly half of Northern Ireland now has access to a “full fibre” network, which puts them massively ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom, where the overall coverage figure is just over 12% (here). A much smaller proportion of NI’s FTTP delivery has also come from Virgin Media and the odd new entrant like Fibrus (here).

Admittedly NI remains a bit of an oddity since, on the flip side, they continue to have weaker coverage of fixed “superfast broadband” 24Mbps+ networks (89%) than any other devolved region. Put another way, fewer people in more rural or harder to reach areas can today benefit from faster speeds.

The good news is that Openreach now intend to continue their commercial roll-out until they hit 525,000 premises (60% coverage) by March 2021, which will form a big chunk of their overall UK coverage goal of 4.5 million premises by that same date.

NOTE: Openreach plans to invest £12bn to cover 20 million UK premises with FTTP by the “mid – to late-2020s” (here).

Mairead Meyer, Director of Openreach NI, said (Irish News):

“The full fibre build programme is central to Northern Ireland’s digital future and economic growth and will provide the region with more reliable, faster and future-proof broadband.

We’re delighted to have reached the 360,000 premises milestone today. We are building right across Northern Ireland, having finished projects from Bangor and Magherafelt to Enniskillen, as well as building full fibre to rural communities in Tamnaghmore and Upper Ballinderry among others.

Belfast city has 72% coverage of full fibre, making it the second-best covered city in the UK, and 7 out of 11 council areas are within the top 20 local authorities in the UK for access to faster connectivity speeds.”

Meanwhile we’re currently still awaiting the outcome of the long-in-gestation Project Stratum, which has committed £165m of state aid (mostly funded by the UK Government) to help extend “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) to an additional 78,500 premises across NI. At present only Fibrus and BT are left to bid on this contract after Granahan McCourt dropped out (here).

A contract for that project is due to be awarded in September 2020 and, despite the focus on “superfast” connectivity, much of the associated deployment is expected to harness FTTP. Meanwhile Fibrus, which is also investing around £85m into their own commercial roll-out across over 100 towns, has recently committed to help ensure that 100% of NI homes can access such services by the end of 2025 (here).

At this point we shouldn’t forget that more public investment will be coming because the UK Government has committed to invest a further £5bn in order to ensure that every home can access a “gigabit-capable” broadband service by the end of 2025. A clear framework for that will be announced in the not too distant future. At the current pace NI may be one of the only UK regions to stand a truly viable chance of actually achieving such a goal.

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21 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all

    That’s more premises than the commercial roll out of FTTC. Good to see!

  2. Avatar chris conder

    Openreach have ‘passed’ a lot of homes in my area. We’ve seen fibre dangling from poles for many years. Blowin in the wind. Probably broken by now. Public funded too. Shame eh?

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      If the fibre is dangling and not lit then it will not be counting in the premises passed figures.

      If it is not live it will also have not been paid for out of public money, since they can only invoice for premises where people can order the service.

    • Avatar Ivor

      This would be a strange comment for anyone to make, given that Openreach FTTP is obviously a very real thing with millions of homes passed (i.e. RFS, service can be ordered, no flapping fibres, ONTs installed and operational in some cases). It’s even stranger given the person it is apparently coming from – I can imagine there are no biases in play at all.

      I don’t think Kim Mears got her OBE by rolling out a part-baked network!

    • Avatar Sam

      So your an expert at identyfing fibre drop cables BS

    • Avatar 125us

      Are you telling lies in your professional capacity or as a private individual Chris?

  3. Avatar Rural Lives Matter

    Of course the priority for upgrades to FTTP will be the most profitable urban locations that already have SuperFast Broadband, and last on the list YET AGAIN, are those in Rural Northern Ireland locations.
    Someone should come up with some sort of Legally binding Universal Service Obligation for those with slow connections. A USO where BT/Openreach should provide FTTP instead of 4G which is as fit for purpose as FTTC for rural locations, i.e. The BT/Openreach chocolate teapot solution.
    There are no 4G average speed details for a specific SIM/connection, so BT/Openreach have pulled another scam on Ofcom, the Government, and rural communities.
    The current USO process is YOU have to provide proof that you cannot get above 10Mbit from any of the 4G providers. When I provided them with multiple speed tests at random times/dates (never managed to get 10Mbit – ever) using a 4G router + external antenna, and multiple 4G providers, BT USO tell me I need written proof from the service providers. The service providers say “Our network averages X Mbps in the UK”, and we cannot provide specific details. So now I have to purchase an EE/BT SIM (one of the most expensive providers), test with that and wait for them to work out how to wriggle out of that as well.
    Take a knee, rural lives matter too!

    • Avatar 125us

      Pretty offensive to equate poor broadband with black folk being murdered by police officers TBH.

  4. Avatar Steve

    This is very good to see. We benefitted from FTTP in a pretty rural location in Northern Ireland about 2 years ago and it has been great. Interesting that you mention “gigabit-capable”. Despite being on a very new installation there is no option of anything faster than 330mbps despite these products launching in March. Our line is still limited ‘up to 330mbps’ on the checker. I assume this is due to some sort of capacity limitation.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      I would guess you have ECI FTTP gear from the 330 limitations.

      ATM just be glad you have a robust 330.

      OR are apparently looking to replace the ECI kit.

      This is not necessarily as simple as it sounds as the FTTP may be tacked onto FTTC headend gear.

      So this means a new FTTP headend and then a PON replacement.

      It will happen as 1G is the gold standard now and with VM offering more than that downstream the commercial pressure us on!!

  5. Avatar chris conder

    Andrew, the fibre is dangling. It is not lit. But altnets can’t get vouchers in those areas because Opentleach has the vouchers. FTTC and PCP cabinet breed prolifically too. No customers on them as altnets are better and cheaper, so no state clawback and govt happy with homes passed stats. Yes Ivor, I am biased, as I have seen what has been happening over the last decade with the waste that was fttc when real fibre networks were needed. Altnets have done it without public money, and finally bt have realised they have to catch up. So now vouchers are available if BT don’t grab every area as we’re seeing in other places, effectively squeezing out startups. Shows that competition makes it happen. Govt need to encourage more competiton.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      If Openreach has the vouchers then that means someone who lives there has applied for a Gigabit voucher in the same way they do for B4RN. So eventually will be a live customer.

      The Gigabit vouchers are not handed out en-masse speculatively.

      As for FTTC and PCP breeding what new ones are there in the last 3 months in Lancashire as very few are appearing nationally let alone in Lancashire hence why the FTTC availability is almost static now.

      The complaint seems to about alt nets being locked out of an area in terms of vouchers if there is a local authority or commercial roll-out of Gigabit underway. Squaring that circle no matter how good the alt net is is a difficult one, since the rules exist to stop people using the vouchers to set up a fake business to fund a Monaco lifestyle.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Being biased is fine. Being wrong, being continually told that you are wrong, shown how you are wrong and refusing to accept it not so much.

      Until customers can order the premises are not considered passed. Whether the fibre is to the pole, to the nearest inspection cover or indeed straight up their hindmost.

      The idea that Openreach have ‘all the vouchers’ but are delivering nothing is simply wrong and you’re accusing Openreach of fraud.

      The idea that full fibre was ‘needed’ a decade ago is wrong. FTTC has proven more than adequate for most and even now most folks buy lower speeds. Everyone isn’t falling over themselves to pay more for gigabit in 2020 let alone 2010.

      It’s been a nice to have for a while and is becoming a requirement now, so it’s being built.

      If it was so necessary a decade ago why weren’t CityFibre building then? KCom? Anyone actually?

      Openreach provide what their customers ask them to. Their customers are the ones competing with alternative networks. The only one that was on their radar was Virgin Media with CityFibre catching up.

      Most alternative networks will end up being acquired anyway. The timing of their starting to build wasn’t coincidental and they didn’t all suddenly abruptly decide not that long ago that they felt like investing. The market was about ready so providers, be they alternative networks, Openreach, etc, started building at scale.

      PS Most of Gigaclear’s stuff, they’re probably the largest ‘alternative’ network that doesn’t focus exclusively on urban areas, is based around publicly subsidised work which dramatically ran over in cost and was delivered late.

    • Avatar The Facts

      @CC – do you have a list of ‘altnets without public money’ numbers?

      If you cannot provide we can assume your statement is invalid.

      Why does the government need to encourage more competition when we have an altnet overbuilding an altnet?

  6. Avatar Network Economist

    Great to see a professional company issuing a professional press release and not stooping to the sort of petty one-liners we’ve seen recently from said new entrant or apparently by Mr Conder above – they all seem to be overburdened in the butt-hurt department.

  7. Avatar Gerard

    We have no internet at all 16 miles from Belfast! Openreach have tested and tested our line but since it is 10k long coming from a town 6K away instead of coming from the village 5k away which would be a straight line we get nothing. Infuriating to see a big push on fibre when we can’t get anything at all. We have to use 3G as even 4G here isn’t stable enough and during lockdown it dropped to under 2Mbit. This is 2020 and its ridiculous!

    • Avatar Network Economist

      I know right? You would think Openreach should have been able to predict where people would build their houses 20 years in advance and make sure exchange boundaries and cable routes were perfect. They should spend a few hundred grand to make sure this is addressed just for you immediately.

      I’m sure Fibrus and Virgin Media and mobile operators are queuing up to sort you out….no? Wonder why that is?

  8. Avatar Joe

    It’s about time this was done so we don’t have to us fake copper not (fibre) cables to get fake speed’s

  9. Avatar SB

    Music to my ears. Our home is apparently due to be able to order FTTP by the end of this month but I haven’t seen any Openreach angels running around the place. Hopefully they haven’t provided me with false info!

    Anyone know how long it usually takes for Openreach to go from “Faster and more reliable fibre is coming to your area soon” to being able to order from an ISP?

    • Avatar Sim

      Quite a long time.. in our area I had seen pole work starting quite a long time (Jan) before the ‘fibre is coming’ email arrived a month or two later. 6 months on and some of our village is now live and accepting orders but still not my street. The contractors we testing the points in the road today outside so hopefully not much longer.

      The roadworks.org site is quite a good place to see how things are progressing.. Lots of phone icons with things like pole replacements and rectifying blocked ducts will give an indication of the activity and how things are progressing.

  10. Avatar SB

    Thanks, Sim. Not a dicky bird on that site about any construction. Sadface.

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