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Edinburgh to be one of the First to Benefit from Openreach’s ‘Fibre First’ Programme

Dominique Adams

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UK Broadband Providers

The UK telecoms infrastructure provider has announced a major acceleration of its roll-out of ultrafast fibre broadband.

Openreach, the firm that manages the UK’s broadband infrastructure, has just announced that it aims to bring ultrafast broadband to three million premises across the UK by the end of 2020. Previously it had aimed to supply two million properties by 2020 but has now boosted that figure to 10 million by the mid-2020s. Openreach wants to raise internet speeds in these areas from 24 Mbps (superfast) to 100 Mbps (ultrafast).

Edinburgh is among the eight major cities to comprise the first phase of the roll-out and would be the first location in Scotland to benefit from the upgrade. Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester would also form the initial phase, which will see up to 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs connected.

Full-fibre For the Future

In the past Openreach, which manages 160 million kilometres of cable, has focused on fibre-copper hybrid technology. This meant that broadband performance was dependent on the user’s distance from the full-fibre network. Full-fibre connections are not hampered by such factors and can provide speeds of up to one gigabit a second.

Ookla’s recent report showed that there is a great disparity in terms of broadband speed and connectivity across the UK, noting in particular rural areas suffered the worst. In response to this Openreach has said that it plans to focus on ensuring rural areas get access to ‘future-proofed’ broadband.

Andrew Hepburn, Openreach’s director of infrastructure delivery in Scotland said, “This latest multi million pound investment in Edinburgh by Openreach will give a vital boost to the city’s households and businesses.”

Fibre First

Openreach said it plans to hire around 3,000 engineers to jump start the Fibre First programme and to further improve the reliability and performance of their existing networks.

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said “We’ll continue to invest in our people and we’re already in the process of re-training and upskilling to make Fibre First a reality.”

The Best Modern Technology

Councillor Gavin Barrie, Convener of the Housing and Economy Committee at The City of Edinburgh Council, said: “I’m delighted that Edinburgh has been selected as one of the first UK cities to benefit from Openreach’s ‘Fibre First’ programme.”

“This technology will enable us to deliver more effective public services online, and support this region’s residents to access resources and services online that can improve their health, skills and general wellbeing.”

UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “I’m glad that Openreach have begun to make this shift in strategy, away from reliance on copper based systems and in favour of the best modern technology.”

“We want to encourage a competitive market to rollout this technology and we will work with Openreach, Virgin, CityFibre, Gigaclear, TalkTalk and the growing number of full fibre broadband providers to build a Britain fit for the future.”

Industry Response

In response to the OpenReach announcement, a spokes person for CityFibre, told DIGIT: “it is a clear response to competition from CityFibre and other alternative full fibre infrastructure builders.

“It is recognised by government and Ofcom that the time has come to reduce the public’s dependency on Openreach. It is not in the UK’s best interest to encourage further entrenchment of the incumbent monopoly.

“As successfully demonstrated all over the world, it is a new generation of infrastructure builders that are best placed to deliver full fibre – able to deliver the next generation of digital connectivity faster and at lower prices than incumbent operators.”

A spokes person for TalkTalk echoed this sentiment, saying that the “programme will only work if Openreach radically reduces proposed pricing, making full fibre affordable to all consumers, rather than just a privileged few. It’s crucial the transition to full fibre is not used to conceal large price rises for customers.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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