Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BT Openreach seeks support for large-scale roll-out of full fibre

BT unit Openreach has called for greater industry and political collaboration to support the construction of a large-scale, full-fibre broadband network that could help strengthen UK competitiveness and its position as a leading digital economy in the G20 group of countries.

Openreach provides phone and broadband infrastructure to around 30 million UK homes and businesses via more than 580 communications provider customers, and has launched a consultation with retail providers and is engaging with government and the regulator Ofcom to identify locations with widespread demand for a large-scale, full fibre, or FTTP, network capable of delivering more reliable service and gigabit speeds.

Openreach will also assess the potential market benefits of implementing such a major infrastructure deployment and seek support for the key enablers required to make a commercial investment case viable.

The enablers that Openreach believes are necessary to drive larger scale FTTP deployment include:

1.  Greater collaboration, including new investment, risk and cost sharing models.

2. Agreement on how the mass migration of customers onto the new platform can be achieved.

3. Reducing logistical barriers, for example improved planning and traffic management processes.

4. Agreement on the right method for sharing the costs of FTTP investment.

5.  A new legal and regulatory environment that will encourage investment.

Openreach noted that, drawing on BT's R&D teams at its labs in Martlesham Heath in Suffolk, it recently became the first company to demonstrate 100 Gbit/s speeds utilising its existing FTTP infrastructure, illustrating the potential to meet future consumer and business bandwidth demands.

Openreach stated that it is currently working towards making ultra-fast speeds of more than 100 Mbit/s available to 12 million UK homes and businesses by the end of 2020 employing a mixture of technologies. However, it is also interested in exploring the conditions that could allow it to invest in more full-fibre infrastructure.

Over the last decade, Openreach noted that it has invested more than GBP 11 billion in its network and currently manages more than 158 million km of cable extending from Scotland to Cornwall and from Wales to the east coast.

Commenting on the initiative, Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said, "With the right conditions I believe Openreach could make FTTP available to as many as 10 million homes and businesses by the mid-2020s, but it needs to understand if there is sufficient demand to justify the roll-out and support for the enablers needed to build a viable business case… that includes removing barriers to investment and incentivising those… prepared to take a commercial risk".

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