Openreach Suspends G.fast Broadband Rollout Until 2021

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Openreach confirms that the rollout of G.Fast, technology that speeds up copper-based broadband connections, will be paused until next year

Openreach is suspending the deployment of its G.fast based “ultrafast broadband” network until April 2021, it has been reported.

According to ISPreview.co.uk, Openreach had paused the deployment of the G.fast network last year, when the operator opted to refocus its efforts on the rollout of fibre to the premise (FTTP).

It was back in 2016 that BT had first announced that it would connect 12 million homes in the UK to either FTTP, or G.fast.

G.Fast speeds

Unlike FTTP that relies on a full fibre connection in order to gain ultrafast speeds (1Gbps etc), G.Fast essentially speeds up copper connections using a combination of FTTC (fibre to the cabinet), and then the existing copper connection into the home or premise.

G.Fast can deliver speeds of up to 330 Mbps or even 500Mbps.

That said, BT in 2015 achieved speeds of 5Gbps using a copper connection in early lab trials of G.Fast, and claimed the tests show the technology is future-proof against future customer demands.

The former UK incumbent had already promised to deliver G.Fast to ten million homes and businesses by the end of 2020 and to the ‘majority’ of the UK by 2025.

The downside is that in order to benefit from G.Fast, the premise or house has to be within 100 to 300 metres of the green street cabinet.

It is reported that currently only 2.8 million premises in the UK are capable of receiving a G.fast service.

But now Openreach has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that it does not intend to build its G.fast based network to any more UK homes until April 2021, as it focuses of the FTTC deployment.

“We recently announced that we’ll be building Full Fibre broadband technology to 20m homes by the mid-to-late 2020s, so that’s our priority,” an Openreach spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk.

“We do still expect to use Gfast in some circumstances, but we don’t expect to be building Gfast to more premises this year,” the spokesperson reportedly said.

FTTP rollout

Boris Johnson in June 2019 called for a fibre rollout to ‘every home in the land’ in five years’ time (2025) – a decade earlier than current estimates.

Until that intervention, the government had previously set a goal of 2033 for the rollout of fibre to all premises.

Last month BT announced it was suspending its dividend (until 2022) to free up cash for investment in fibre to the premise (FTTP) broadband and 5G.

The former UK incumbent said it would invest £12bn to deliver full fibre broadband (fibre to the premise or FTTP) to 20 million homes by the mid to late 2020s.

BT had previously pledged to reach 15 million homes with FTPP by 2025.

BT is also facing a bigger challenge in the years ahead after Virgin Media and mobile operator O2 recently announced they are going to merge and create a 50.50 joint venture.

Quiz: What do you know about BT, the UK’s biggest mobile and broadband provider?

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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