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Openreach Delivers FTTP Broadband to 4.5 Million UK Premises

Thursday, March 25th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 15,912
van_and_openreach_fttp_engineer_on_telegraph_pole_photo

Openreach (BT) has today announced that they’ve achieved their latest deployment target, which means that 4.5 million homes and business across the United Kingdom can now order a service over their 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP network (1.9 million premises were added in the last year alone).

The development shows that Openreach’s pace of build is continuing to ramp-up, despite the impact of COVID-19. Just to put this in some context, their network added 1.3 million FTTP premises in 2019/20, then 1.9 million in the latest 2020/21 period, and they expect to reach a max build rate of 3 million per year in the future.

NOTE: The operator’s current build rate is c.42,000 per week and, during the last quarter, they’ve seen new orders – across multiple ISPs (e.g. BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Zen Internet etc.) – reach an average rate of c.17,000 per week (very strong take-up).

So far, they’ve included more than 170 city locations into their multi-billion-pound commercial build, including the UK’s biggest cities (Birmingham, Belfast, London and Manchester). On top of that they’re also building in more than 550 market towns and villages. According to our industry sources, the operator’s next target (unofficial) will be to cover 5.8 million premises by September 2021.

All of this work supports Openreach’s ambition to cover 20 million premises by the mid to late 2020s (2025-30), which is expected to attract a total cost of £12bn (here); some of that will also be supported by public subsidy (e.g. remaining work under the £2.5bn BDUK Superfast Broadband programme, gigabit vouchers and the new £5bn Project Gigabit scheme). Some 3.2 million of this reflects rural and semi-rural builds (here).

A Spokesperson for Openreach told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Despite the huge upheaval caused by the pandemic, our key worker engineers have been working safely throughout the country to keep people connected and to continue extending the network, meaning we’ve hit this interim target just ahead of our original schedule [the official target was for the very end of March].

Openreach isn’t the only company delivering against the Government’s 2025 ‘Gigabit broadband’ ambition, but we’re making the biggest investment – around £12 billion – have the biggest ambition and we’re building at the fastest pace in rural and urban communities all over the UK.”

Admittedly there are still many who feel as if Openreach arrived somewhat late to the full fibre party. Indeed, those with a long memory may recall that BT originally set a target of 2.5 million FTTP premises all the way back in 2009 (here), which ended up being abandoned in 2013 (here). The operator then spent several years shunning the technology, until their “Fibre First” programme arrived in early 2018 (here).

Today it’s probably a case of better late than never, although by stalling for so long the operator now finds itself swimming in some much more aggressively competitive waters. The best defence against that is to build faster than anybody else and on that front they’re certainly delivering. But in 10-years’ time it’s likely that they may not hold as much dominance over the FTTP space as they once did in the copper market of old.

All of this represents good news for consumers, which will naturally benefit from a greater amount of choice. But with so many fish swimming in the new sea, that future choice could also be quite a confusing one to navigate (we’d expect consolidation to help thin the options out, eventually).

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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39 Responses
  1. Jason M says:

    Congratulations to Openreach! long may it continue . My area was done rapid compared to when Virgin media came .

    Cant fault their network and workmanship .
    Showing they are the best

    1. Ben says:

      If you can’t fault Openreach then you either have a closed mind or you’re a BT shareholder. My biggest criticism of their FTTP network is the asymmetrical speeds. I see no technical reason to restrict upload speeds (CityFibre’s GPON network manages 1Gb/s each way!) so I can only assume it’s to allow BT to continue selling leased lines to people who want faster upload speeds but otherwise don’t need the service level of a leased line.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Cityfibre have a different approach to the settings than OR but in my opinion more honest. Earlier GPON equipment is in principle asymmetric. As later generations of kit are used and their cost comes down then no doubt OR will also offer symmetrical products.

      Other FTTP providers have different design approaches.

      Injecting traffic to the Internet costs money and that has to be passed on to the consumer. Most consumers use profile is/will remain asymmetric and will want it at the least cost possible. Those that need higher up speeds can by the appropriate product.

    3. Ben says:

      GPON’s upstream is definitely asymmetrical (although newer PON standards like XGS-PON are symmetrical), however I think this is better translated as higher upstream contention rather than reducing upstream speeds. Consumer using is very “bursty” by nature, upstream usage even more so.

    4. Meadmodj says:

      ORs approach infers that in their opinion they can best balance the service (high and guaranteed) by offering asymmetrical products to consumers on existing FTTP currently. We may find that on later FTTP implementations that OR offer symmetrical or even as you say burst products but expect to pay more (network provider and ISP overhead).

      Please note that BT Consumer currently only offer a 50% guarantee on download speeds of Full Fibre products above 100Mbps and only offer a 10Mbps guarantee on upload. There will be a reason for that.

      Other providers such as Cityfibre offer a different approach but we don’t know yet what the actual service experience will be once their market share increases and how their particular ISPs facilitate.

    5. Gavin says:

      Ben – if that is your only gripe about the OR network then you’re living an amazing life.

    6. Kris Crane says:

      I AGREE JASON, What a great job from Openreach. Everyone has a preference but I had a great overall installation from Openreach and my speeds are running great feom the provider.

  2. LT says:

    No doubt we will soon have a load of anti Openreach posts moaning about how they are dragging their feet. I can only speak from my own experience and I have to say I was impressed with how quickly they rolled out fibre in my town. Virgin cabled up the neighbouring town, but didn’t bring it out as far as our village. They are almost finished in the periphery now and once that is done they will move on to the next town. In an ideal world they would have done this a decade ago, but we are where we are and from my perspective they are doing a great job.

    1. Dave Telecom says:

      The reason that BT/OR have not fibred the UK earlier is that they would not have been able to make a profit out of their investment, indead other countries like Ireland were allowed to make a profit as other providers are not allowed to profit before the installer telecom has made a return. Ofcom have finally seen sense, they should have used this model back in 2009 and most of the UK would have been fibred by now.

  3. John says:

    How old is the copper cabling connecting the properties using FTTC technology. I heard many instances where it has become corroded!

    1. 125us says:

      Copper is used widely as an electrical conductor (and as a building material) precisely because of its resistance to corrosion.

    2. A_Builder says:

      I see: so copper oxide doesn’t exist where copper gets wet and oxygen gets in?

      Try telling that to an OR linesman fixing his ‘n’th corroded crimp.

      Copper does corrode, nastily, in the right condition. For instance copper pipe external to a building needs to be passivated either with paint or a resin layer to keep oxygen off it.

    3. Meadmodj says:

      Copper is regarded as non corrosive as it naturally tarnishes and protects itself. Artefacts over 4000 years have been found intact. However it can corrode if in contact with other metals such as solder or crimps.

      There may even still be lead sheathed, paper insulation copper cables in use that are performing well.

      ORs telephone distribution network is breaking down but due to the copper. Changes in practice overtime and rising costs mean its life cannot continue.

      Copper shortage cost resulted in reduced conductor sizes, reduced purity of copper then use of aluminium conductors which meant to jelly filled crimps (jelly breaks down)
      Mixing of copper, aluminium and crimp alloys
      Crimp joints and now insulation displacement becoming the default
      Plastic insulation now starting to deteriorate
      All compounded by works and a size ten boot

    4. Meadmodj says:

      but NOT due to the copper

    5. A_Builder says:

      Sorry.

      My PhD is in inorganic chemistry: metals chemistry.

      Copper does corrode when exposed to oxygen and water and corrosion is accelerated by mild acidity. FACT.

      So copper does have a limited lifespan when exposed at junctions and terminations. FACT.

      As you say copper does require maintenance and the main is that the small army needed to do that is not commercially viable. Also a lot of the copper connections were made in decades ago and are now starting to degrade.

      Move over copper move in fibre.

  4. Alex says:

    Well done Openreach doing what they said they would.
    Fibre to the Premises rather than Fibre to the Press Release
    And to the inevitable nay sayers, sadly “haters gonna hate”

  5. Peter Sharp says:

    I`ve been waiting for Virgin for over six years, when they said my street was to be cabled as part of project lightning. Openreach are currently in my town and have fibred most of it including my street in less then three months.

    1. Just riding around town says:

      I agree OR are now doing a much better job than few years back albeit my town has had them installing FTTP for last 12 months and it appears estates fed by underground ducts to the premises are not able to order yet however those that have telegraph poles are able to order.
      My Close had cables pullted through back in Aug 202 as did other cul de sacs around however nothing show yet on BT Wholesale checker.
      Streets on other side of town had Fibre installed on poles in Dec and were able to order in Feb as my sister in law has luckily done.

  6. john murphy says:

    Copper, you are lucky. We have aluminium cabling. Everytime it rains we lose our broadband. Aluminium easily corroded.

    1. Ross says:

      If your broadband drops every time it rains you need to report it to your provider so openreach can fix.

      There are thousands of broadband circuits running though aluminium cables with no stability issues.

  7. Steve Green says:

    We have had broadband with Sky and more recently Virgin over the last 13 years and with both we have had reliability issues that has meant an unstable connection which in this current pandemic WFH climate has been a source of great frustration and concern.
    Recently an IT professional tried to explain why a 50mb connection from BT down my copper wire connection is inherently more stable than the sporadic 500mb connection I was experiancing from Virgin media’s fibre line.
    From a technical standpoint I wasn’t able to understand his reasoning but I was struggling to maintain a connection via Virgins ‘super fast 500 fibre’ provision so I took a leap of faith with BT’s 50mb Fibre2.
    Finally and even though the home end of my connection is still copper I have a very stable and reliable provision that all 4 of us working from home are very satisfied with.
    The provision of full fibre connection that was surveyed for on our road this week can only improve our connection.

    Great to see BT catching up with the fibre giants.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      With ADSL and then FTTC the limitation was the line length and its quality. Once it is determined what a specific line can support then that is basically it. ISPs are far more conservative in what they offer on a line now.

      VM uses copper coax and whilst this can support higher speeds it can still suffer from bad or corroding connections so you can still get different performance between neighbours. My own experience with VM is that the line speed behaves as expected (or just above) based on the product purchased but that its performance can reduce considerably at peak times. This is particularly felt in NTL/Telewest legacy areas.

      FTTP gives us a step change to a much higher speed capacity from which we can have more confidence that the lower tier products sold will perform as specified but individual FTTP service will still suffer if ISPs do not provide sufficient capacity within their networks to support their promises.

  8. Unknown says:

    “building in more than 550 market towns”

    More like starting to build one town, then pausing and starting on another…. Classic trick there Openreach

    1. Alex says:

      Username checks out

  9. Frederick T.. says:

    I live in Birmingham,so called “The Second City” and I too have aluminium cable to my property what a joke,As previously stated it is very hit and miss, the maximum download speed is 12 mbs if I am lucky most of the time it is 3 mbs, plus.the broadband is none existent most of the day. Also I have no idea when fibre will be connected to my property.

    1. bobv says:

      #Frederick T. What exchange are you on, Birmingham is been fibred up now.
      I am on Woodgate, and served by a direct DP, it was cabled up to fibre two weeks ago.
      Today I have had an email from OpenReach, saying contact your chosen ISP to get fibre delivery.
      I am currently with BT on ADSL2, and just had an email from BT, saying I can now have fibre delivery.

  10. Richard Melrose says:

    My street was done late last year and I still can’t get bt fibre as ooenr3ach have not released the lines for 10 houses in the street. Was told by them I would have it by the end of Feb but still waiting. Then was told end of October 21. That’s not bad to have it installed in your street 12 month before you can get access to fibre. It’s a complete farce

  11. Albert Williams says:

    If you have sky broadband at 2mbps. Can you change to any provider

  12. Paul Phillips says:

    Are Openreach fibre doing homes that already have Virgin? Does that mean they are digging up the streets again not that long after Virgin did?

    1. Meadmodj says:

      OR are using their existing infrastructure. It will be the Altnets that may need to do extensive civils depending on their approach.

      But you raise the good point as why VM is not obliged to make their duct available to Altnets, particularly in areas where the existing telephone network is directly buried or inaccessible.

    2. Just a thought says:

      Apparently better to have 2 – 3 network providers dig up your street and none at all in other streets than to insist that all networks have to offer wholesale access to anything the put in to any ISP.

      That way only if the network bumps up their prices, to ISPs, would it be worth a different network coming in and overbuilding. Maybe they should take note of the vaccine rollout – better to give more people 1st shot before rolling out the second…..

  13. Raju says:

    G.Netork did my road on Jan 2020, Openreach did it a month ago, fibre underground all the way to my doorstep, yet neither show FTTP as being available at my property. I’ve given up on FTTP, just because it’s available on a street doesn’t mean it’s ready to order for months or even years.

  14. David Smith says:

    Try living in a rural area, where every time it rains or blows a gale my broadband goes off. Five years of this & Openreach say the cabling needs replacing but they are not allowed to do it because fibre is coming. Five years of this and a speed of 0.8 with the latest fibre news is it should be installed by 2025!!

  15. Stuart fivash says:

    Moved to St Keyne area on January the 8th still no phone line installed absolute nightmare!! well done openreach!

  16. Frederick T says:

    In reply to Boby, (yesterday) I live in Longbridge Bham, and there is definitely no fibre to my property it is aluminium cable, in fact it was the engineer who confirmed this. The engineers have. tried to improve on the situation on several occasions but with no improvement,They told me that until I am connected with fibre it will never be any good, nobody knows when fibre will be connected, I was told it could be up to another five year’s.

  17. T J Wilkinson says:

    Why oh why do OR not prioritise their not spots for FTTP? 1.5Mb is so 1980s my 3g is faster.
    Yet they sell it as a 30Mb package.

    1. LPP says:

      Then ask one of the other Alt nets to come serve you? They could even use PIA to do it. They won’t do however because you sound like you’re in the middle of nowhere miles from the nearest fibre node so won’t make any financial sense yet you don’t blame them?

  18. Eldridgep says:

    Anyone praising OpenReach or BT are off their heads. This country is so far behind other civilised countries precisely because of the monopoly they held.

    They profited off of old ISDN technology and delayed DSL roll out for years. When we were getting 8Mb ADSL in this country I knew people in Sweden getting 50Mb. They’ve continued to drag their feet ever since. I know exchanges in Dundee where recently you still couldn’t even get FTTC as it wasn’t profitable for them to enable exchanges.

    If you live in a rural area or even a number of quite large towns like Montrose we still don’t have a date for FTTP. Personally I’m waiting to see how the Starlink trials go finally fast broadband with no postcode lottery.

  19. Carol greengrow says:

    Well all I can say is we are still waiting to be connected, everything is in order, just need the box indoors, but keep getting g given excuse after excuse, do we are not very impressed, if that’s how they treat their customers I don’t go much on the OPENREACH promise.

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