Fibre rollout could cost as much as £28.8 billion

Deploying fibre-based broadband in the UK will cost billions, according to a report from a government advisory group.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) today claimed that the cost to rollout next-generation fibre broadband across the UK will run from 5.1 billion to a staggering 28.8 billion depending on the tech which is used, according to the report commissioned by BSG and produced by Analysys Mason.

National deployment of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) - taking the fibre connection just to the street - would be the cheapest, but would still cost three times more than the sector spent deploying current services. Point-to-point fibre taking fibre to each and every home (FTTH) would take the cost to the maximum.

The report did suggest that FTTC could be used initially, and then upgraded to FTTH. But it added such a situation could cause trouble where multiple operators have invested in the equipment.

Unsurprisingly, rolling out to more dispersed populations in rural areas will cost more than urban areas. That means, according to the BSG, that the two-thirds of the UK living in urban areas should be able to receive fibre with little trouble, as the market exists to pay for it. Antony Walker chief executive of the BSG said: "If rural areas are to be served in a reasonable time frame, thinking needs to start now about creative solutions for making them more attractive to investment."

He added: "If operators could achieve a higher than expected level of take-up in rural areas, then the business case for deployment in those areas could improve significantly."

The biggest cost in rolling out next-gen broadband is the civil infrastructure, the installation of fibre in ducts. But the report suggests reuse of existing ducts, the use of overhead fibre distribution, or sharing infrastructure such as the broadband in sewers projects could help cut costs.

Earlier this year, communications watchdog Ofcom said the government has a role to play in implementing fibre networks, but said that full funding for the project was "very unlikely".