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Openreach to consult broadband providers on future of fibre networks

Monday, May 15th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Openreach is to consult broadband providers on how best to improve connectivity in the UK.

The company, which manages Britain’s national broadband network, wants to explore the level of support for a large-scale ‘full fibre’ network.

It also wants to look at ways of delivering faster speeds to the 3% of the UK currently without access to 10Mbps broadband.

The consultation, announced last week, will focus on the more than 580 providers that use Openreach’s network to deliver broadband services.

Openreach has already stated its ambition to make ‘ultrafast’ speeds of more than 100Mbps available to 12 million homes and businesses by 2020.

But it has always made it clear that those connections will come via a number of different technologies including G.Fast, which uses a combination of fibre cables and existing copper infrastructure.

Openreach CEO Clive Selley said: “We are committed to continuing our investment in the infrastructure Britain needs to support our thriving digital economy.

“We want to work closely with communications providers to explore how we do that.

“With the right conditions we could make full fibre connections available to as many as 10 million homes and businesses by the mid-2020s, but we need to understand if there’s sufficient demand to justify the roll-out, and support – across industry, Ofcom and government – for the enablers needed to build a viable business case.”

Connecting remote locations

Openreach’s plan to increase speeds for those unable to get speeds of 10Mbps centres on a new technology called Long Reach VDSL.

Tests carried out in the Outer Hebrides last year showed it is able to significantly increase speeds for households connected to fibre cabinets via long telephone lines.

It is hoped the technology will help the government deliver its new Universal Service Obligation, which will give everyone in the UK the right to a speed of at least 10Mbps.

“Everyone in Britain should have access to a decent broadband speed – so we support the government’s moves to make that a reality,” said Mr Selley.

“We’ve been working hard to develop faster, affordable ways to connect remote locations and we’ve been pleased with the initial technical field results of our Long Reach VDSL trials, but we need communications providers’ support to make sure their customers can be upgraded and migrated smoothly to this new platform.

“Every communications provider in Britain can already access our national network on equal terms and conditions and I’m convinced that providing a mechanism to explore investment opportunities confidentially will lead to stronger relationships and more teamwork in addressing the major challenges we face as an industry.”

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