Openreach is exploring the possibility of a “large scale” deployment of fibre to the premise (FTTP) broadband and wants its communications provider (CP) customers, and the government, to participate.
BT has already committed to delivering ‘ultrafast’ broadband to 12 million premises by 2020, but just 2 million of these will be connected via FTTP. The remainder will be achieved using G.Fast, a technology which speeds up existing copper connections.
It has launched a consultation to see what logistical barriers can be removed, how a favourable regulatory environment can be achieved, and crucially, what new investment, risk and cost sharing models can be devised.
“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,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley.
“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.
Openreach’s focus on FTTP marks a change from its insistence that fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) was the right technology to use for its initial superfast broadband rollout. And its willingness to work with other providers not only demonstrates a change in attitude following the decision by Ofcom to make Openreach a legally separate entity.
Some of BT’s opponents had argued that under the previous model, Openreach made decisions that primarily benefited its parent rather than the 580 CPs that use the open access network. It claimed that if Ofcom forced BT to sell the division, then all providers – such as Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone – could invest in the company and fund the rollout of “futureproof” FTTP.
Now Openreach is encouraging them to fulfil that promise.
“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,” added Selley.
“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.”
A number of other providers, such as CityFibre, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic have invested in FTTP networks, while Virgin Media is also rolling out the technology as part of its £3billion ‘Project Lightning’ investment programme.
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