Openreach has said it will "accelerate" is fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) plans for super-fast broadband by upping its commitment to now provide 3 million homes and businesses with fibre connections by the end of 2020.
The company had previously committed to providing 2 million premises with fibre connections that run cables straight to the door rather than to a roadside cabinet, but with plans now accelerated, it says it's on track to service 10 million FTTP connections by the "mid-2020s".
As part of the expansion, Openreach has also said it will hire an additional 3,000 engineers to service the rollout, which aims to eliminate 'not-spots' in both urban and rural areas of the UK.
Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester will make up the first phase of Openreach's new 'Fibre First' programme, which aims to eventually connect up to 40 UK towns and cities with FTTP networks, starting from this year. The exact details of the rollout will be released later in the year, but the company says "thousands" of homes and businesses stand to benefit from the scheme.
This is alongside government proposals to spend 200 million on improving the UK's fibre infrastructure by 2021, 10 million of which has already been set aside for a 1,000 Mbps fibre trial connecting six regions across the UK.
"Through the Fibre First programme, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an Ultrafast Britain," said Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach. "We are accelerating our plans to build FTTP to three million premises by 2020 which sets the course to reach ten million by the mid-2020s with the right conditions.
"Working closely with central and local government and our communication provider customers, we will identify the cities, towns and rural areas where we can build a future-proofed, FTTP network that's capable of delivering gigabit speeds to all homes and businesses at an affordable cost," added Selley.
He added that the company was in the process of re-training and upskilling existing employees to support the expansion, and that an additional 3,000 engineers would be hired over the next two years.
Openreach has faced pressures from politicians and regulators to increase investment in broadband, particularly as its dominant position as an infrastructure operator has led many to call for greater opportunities for competition in the market.
The UK is currently one of the world's worst performers when it comes to fibre connectivity. The overwhelming majority of super-fast broadband connections rely on routing cables to a roadside cabinet, where speeds are typically bottlenecked along older copper cables, with less than 1% making up FTTP.
Openreach has also said that the pace of the expansion will depend on whether an acceptable return on investment can be guaranteed. This will include partnering with communication providers, local government bodies, and regulators to ensure build costs are kept to a minimum and that there's a rapid take-up of connections once they are built.
It estimates that the cost of building FTTP infrastructure over the next few years will cost the company around 300 to 400 per premise, with the cost of connecting those routes being around 150 to 175.
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Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.