Openreach launches 'full-fibre' consultation

The firm is seeking input from industry to help assess consumer demand

Fibre cables

Openreach has launched a consultation to gather industry feedback for its "full fibre" broadband plans in the UK, which would significantly expand on the rollout proposed while still part of BT.

Openreach, which was forced to separate from BT in March following instructions from Ofcom, said that in an effort to improve "industry and political collaboration" it was now seeking input from communication providers to assess the demand for 'full-fibre', known as Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP).

BT initially committed to the rollout of two million fibre lines by 2020, however, after a trial year resulted in estimated costs being slashed by half, Openreach has now set that target at 10 million homes by 2025.

As part of the consultation, Openreach wants companies to work together to figure out how best to migrate customers from older broadband lines to the new platform, as well as working to reduce "logistical barriers" by improving the planning process and revamping how traffic is managed. 

It will also seek to identify potential business benefits of the new lines, and whether proposed plans will be commercially viable. 

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said: "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."

"...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," added Selley.

Full-fibre currently represents just 2% of connections in the UK, yet both Openreach and the government feel there is adequate demand for the faster connections, which can support up to 1Gbps speeds.

The government recently made its own push for 'full-fibre', launching its 400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund earlier this month. The plans, which will be matched by private investors, seek to make it easier and cheaper for companies to lay their own fibre networks.

"Full-fibre broadband is faster, more reliable and simpler to maintain, and it has the potential to power the UK's economic success for a century, but it also requires a Victorian-scale vision, commitment and investment," said 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."

The consultation will seek feedback over the next few months, closing on 29 September 2017.

Openreach is currently investigating its landmark 1.5 billion deal with Carillion, after the construction firm had over half its value wiped out over the course of a few days. Openreach are currently examining whether the firm's troubles could impede contractual obligations, including the maintenance and extension of communication lines.

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