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Openreach Add 94 Rural Villages and Towns to FTTP Broadband Plan UPDATE

Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 17,093

Network access provider Openreach (BT) has today announced that a further 94 rural villages and towns have been added to their UK roll-out plan for 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP technology over the next 2 years, but all of them will be in Northern Ireland.

The latest announcement forms part of the operator’s on-going commercial deployment in N.Ireland, which recently extended coverage to 360,000 premises (up by 100,000 since January 2020 alone) and aims to reach 525,000 premises (60% coverage) by March 2021. By comparison today’s update includes a build programme that will run even longer, until March 2022.

NOTE: Openreach’s wider full fibre network currently covers 2.75 million UK premises and aims to reach 4.5 million by March 2021. After that they have an ambition to reach 20 million by the mid-to-late 2020s (costing c.£12bn to complete).

Overall, 124 locations across NI have now been included in Openreach’s build programme and the company is currently covering 750 premises every day. The fact that all of this is being done via a commercial project is important and reflects some of the operator’s recent advancements in civil engineering (here and here), which have helped to bring the per premises cost of deployment down to a more manageable level.

Recent rural FTTP deployments have tested various innovations, such as remote FTTP nodes (Mini OLT) in street cabinets, the ditch witch cutter, micro ducting, ground penetrating radar, diamond cutters (trench digging), mobile planning (Orion) and a GeoRipper (used for digging trenches across soft ground at pace) etc.

Mairead Meyer, Director of Openreach Northern Ireland, said:

“As one of the biggest investors in infrastructure in Northern Ireland, Openreach is committed to bringing ultra-reliable and ultrafast broadband to as many people as we can, as quickly as possible. With that in mind, we’re delighted to announce a further 94 towns and villages today that will be part of our ‘Full Fibre’ build programme and particularly pleased that so many of these areas are in rural communities.

This is important to us as we look to play a role in the economic recovery and long-term growth of NI. Ensuring that we’re balanced in our build programme is central to this and our engineers are building to over 750 homes every day in both rural and urban areas. In addition, we also have schemes in place, such as our ‘Community Fibre Partnerships, which is bringing broadband to areas that are harder to reach and making sure no one gets left behind.

To support the build programme, we’ve also announced that we’re recruiting over 100 apprentice engineers across the region between now and March 2021. Our new recruits will be joining the team at a really exciting time and if anyone is interested in applying, they can find out more on our website.

We’re hopeful that with continued investment in the ‘Full Fibre’ broadband network, there will be benefits for everyone right across NI, no matter where they live, work or study and we’re proud to be building a strong and resilient network that will meet the needs of everyone, now and in the future.”

At this point it goes without saying that in order to go further Openreach will also be looking to grab a slice of Project Stratum, which has committed £165m of state aid funding (mostly via the UK Government) to help extend “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) to an additional 78,500 premises across NI (primarily using full fibre solutions). Both BT and rival Fibrus are currently bidding on this and a winner due in September 2020.

Ofcom’s previous Spring 2020 coverage report revealed that N.Ireland has Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) coverage of 41% (more than any other part of the United Kingdom), which is up sharply from 25% in May 2019 and rising rapidly.

Openreach NI Build Locations:

Co. Antrim
























Co. Armagh











Co. Down





























The Burren

Co. Fermanagh









Co. Londonderry














Co. Tyrone












UPDATE 2:21pm

We’ve had an interesting response from Openreach’s rival in N.Ireland, Fibrus.

Conal Henry, Founder and Chairman of Fibrus, said:

“This announcement directly shows the benefit of real competition in the Broadband market. In fact it seems that investments in regional fibre are like buses, you wait 20 years for one and along come 2 in the space of a few weeks.

This is a clear and direct response to Fibrus’ investment programme and demonstrates the importance of competition in the telecoms market. We hope that the benefits which flow from a competitive marketplace represent the new normality for the provision of Full Fibre Broadband.”

From the very beginning Fibrus has been dedicated to investing in critical digital infrastructure in regional and rural towns and villages across Northern Ireland and we will carry on with our existing investment programme into these areas. Fibrus want to make Northern Ireland the most connected region in these islands and is committed to the people that live and work in the local communities of regional and rural NI.”

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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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34 Responses
  1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    Excellent news for Northern Ireland.

    They should be nicely equipped with FTTP when they reunite with the Republic and Eircom can buy out and run a converged network.

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      I think the majority of the Northern Irish would disagree with them becoming part of the Republic.

    2. Avatar photo Grazza says:

      Won’t happen in your lifetime boyo

    3. Avatar photo Declan M says:


  2. Avatar photo Fibre Roll Out says:

    Why Ireland? Bloody UK let down by Openreach

    1. Avatar photo Sam says:

      You do realise that Northern Ireland is still part of the UK right?

    2. Avatar photo Optical says:

      Thinking the same, What’s so bloody special about Northern Ireland getting all this FTTP, you also have Fibrus going to be installing FTTP all over Northern Ireland as well.
      Been far better Openreach picking 94 places on the UK mainland for FTTP.

    3. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Why the area of Telford covered by Cuckoo Oak?

      Northern Ireland’s economy isn’t in the greatest shape and hasn’t been for a long while. It hasn’t benefited as much from FTTC as other areas due to the layout of the network.

      It’s as good a place as any to receive these upgrades.

    4. Avatar photo Terry O'Toole says:

      Optical – Why should Northern Ireland NOT get something by Openreach? It’s not NI’s problem that Openreach aren’t rolling out “Full Fibre” at the same rate in Britain. I live in one of the locations listed in the article and I’m quite happy at the news – some of these locations listed don’t even have a population of 1,000 residents! Maybe if Openreach in Britain had a more proactive approach like their NI arm has, then you might have less to whinge about.

    5. Avatar photo Stephen Donaghy says:

      Classic English attitude – “Why Northern Ireland”. Why indeed.

      If you don’t want to invest in the country you occupy, maybe you should hand it back.

    6. Avatar photo Sandra says:

      Only end of this year you won’t be part of this country. So best of luck to you

    7. Avatar photo David D says:

      Stop picking on Telford teehee, the cuckoo oak does a mean steak.

  3. Avatar photo Fermanagh says:

    Is this just the villages or is it also the properties further out which get their current fibre (non optical – 4mbit) connection from the villages listed? They recently replaced about 2 miles of cable that connects my property to one of the Fermanagh villages listed, but no fibre optic was added. If I am likely to get actual fibre optic in 2 years I would not need to move house after all.

    1. Avatar photo NGA for all says:

      Stratom is likely to be used for completing the edges of the network. All these have had subsidies for FTTC so this is a big change in mentality and is welcome.

  4. Avatar photo Paul Davies says:

    Good luck if you live on the outskirts of one of those villages.

    Our village (and the next) has just had FTTP installed by openreach. Our house wasn’t deemed important enough, even though it’s on the A road between the two villages.

    We are stuck with the < 30Mbps FTTC now openreach have been and "ticked their box"

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Wish I could be stuck on FTTC, we are too far from the cabinet and get 4Mbps. Under the USO, I am told I can 4G – but that usually comes in at around 7Mbps but apparently is deemed to meet the USO criteria. Seems unfair that while we pursuing getting some people on 1Gbps, we leaving others even further behind. Over recent months with school work and working from home, it has been tough!

    2. Avatar photo Fermanagh says:

      @Jon: I have tried all the local 4G providers (including EE), and none of them get close to the USO. I have a Router and External Antenna that gets 4 to 5 out of 5 bars)
      I have been told by the BT USO team I need to buy the BT Mobile package (£40 for 200GB for 24 months (minimum of £960 commitment) to be eligible to proceed if theit doesnt meet the USO. The allowance is well below the UK monthly average of 315GB in 2019, and probably well over 400GB in 2020. Therefore, for rural to be treated like ‘average’ UK consumers, the USO requires that you spend close to £2000 on broadband without any means to confirm if it meets your needs.
      BT says I ‘should get good signal’ (which I already know I do).
      BT will not say that I will consistently get above 10Mbit USO (which I never have on 4G on any provider).
      Ofcom say they dont deal with individual cases.
      It seems the USO worthless. Anyone know how to confirm the number of consumers who have benefitted from the USO?

  5. Avatar photo Granola says:

    I have no problem with Northern Ireland’s good fortune, I do however have an issue with the headline. Come on Mark, how many of us not in Northern Ireland eagerly clicked on the link only to be crushed like a kick in the ‘taters.

    1. Avatar photo JustBrowsing says:

      Hahaha! I had the same thoughts, click bait headline to get us in, just to have our heart crushed when reading the first paragraph.

  6. Avatar photo Gary says:

    I’ve no problem at all with OR deploying commercially in NI great news for residents there, What’s interesting to me really is Why/How are these smaller towns in NI concidered financially viable at this scale but arent on the Mainland ?
    Or is it just that as this release only covers NI, theres to be a further reveal for planned mainland builds. I’m curious to see the next list, not that it affects me as i’ll certainly be one of the “not all properties will be connected”, We dont have the housing density.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew Ferguson says:

      Did you forget the long list of towns and villages announced earlier in 2020 covering mainland.

    2. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Gary: You will find that there are plenty of UK mainland towns with e.g. 10,000 high-density populations which won’t be touched by Openreach fibre at all, or not anytime soon. Quite often this company has no commercial sense.

      This whole country is a decade behind of where it should be. The headlines you see on ISPReview would have aroused some interest years ago when fibre was a new thing. Nowadays you’d expect a telecom company to build and/or maintain fibre networks, just like a water company does for water pipes, or an electricity company does for power lines.

    3. Avatar photo James says:

      Yeah I don’t have a problem with NI getting it but a little bit sad that my town of about 20,000+ people isn’t on anyone’s list for FTTP.

    4. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      @GN – maybe OR build where the ISPs tell them they will get customers and prioritise.

    5. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @The Facts: maybe, maybe, …. So you don’t have any reliable sources?

    6. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      @GN – thanks for the quick reply. Why are you obsessed by OR and not VM or others for failing to cover the UK?

      How is Brightlingsea?


    7. Avatar photo GNewton says:


      You were the one mentioning Openreach and coming up here with a speculative statement, and refusing to back it up with any sources, and then throwing in some random place names.

      Stick to the subject and answer the simple question here.

    8. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      @GN – as OR’s customers are the ISPs it’s not unreasonable that they have an input into rollout priorities. Business sense. Particularly as they have to provide connectivity into the OR network.

      Do you have a list of towns that will not be touched by OR?

    9. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      @Gary: You will find that there are plenty of UK mainland towns with e.g. 10,000 high-density populations which won’t be touched by Openreach fibre at all, or not anytime soon. Quite often this company has no commercial sense.

      Gnewton i think you mean it has a different commercial sense to you

      brightlingsea covered by BDUK for FTTC

    10. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Fastman: I am not sure why you are so obsessed about a place called “Brightlingsea”, we don’t live there, and looking at the Google Maps, it appears to be more like a village on the Essex coast. We never used BDUK funded lines, nor do we use BT. If you are so desperate selling telecom services, tell us where to find your website.

      Anyway, I think you will have to agree that most small towns in the UK don’t have fibre from BT/Openreach, even though the majority are densely populated.

  7. Avatar photo Matt says:

    Live exactly a mile from a green cabinet in ones of these villages so won’t get too excited but it would be nice it the upgrades make it as far as me. Its easy to forget how really really bad broadband is for a lot of NI outside of the towns when you see headlines about so much FTTP here.

  8. Avatar photo Gary says:

    @Andrew Ferguson no not at all, 227 announced earlier in the year, this one 94 in Northern Ireland alone, pretty close to half of the number announced for the Entire UK earlier in the year.

    It just seemed alot in what is 1/10th the size of England alone considering its a UK list. So wondering what other factors are in in play.

    Possibly it’s that Openreach have large numbers of people installing in the big Fibre first towns and cities here and we’ll see an increase in the number of smaller ones as those draw to a close. Or are proportianlly more engineers here working on overbuild to gain/retain market share here than in NI ( I dont know how the NI market is for competition.

    Just interested, I have no answers to offer.

  9. Avatar photo Mary McGee says:

    Have you any plans to cover the Augher, Clogher areas?

  10. Avatar photo BL says:

    This announcement is a bit of a scam. What they are doing is upgrading the fibre connections in towns which already have fibre to I presume FTTP. No mention of any new connections to fibre where I live.
    We are about 1.5 miles outside one of the towns mentioned with a 2MB non fibre connection – Openreach want £24k per household to install fibre via community partnership.
    Tried 4G EE solution – didn’t work and kept dropping out probably mast overloaded with demand due to lockdown.
    Stuck with no way forwards and then have to read this – its hard not to take it personally…..

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