Openreach has announced its open, wholesale fibre network has passed the 25 million premises milestone.
The news came as independent data showed that nine out of 10 UK premises now have access to superfast broadband and that the average UK broadband speed has jumped sharply.
Openreach’s roll out of fibre broadband began in July 2009 when the UK average broadband speed was just 4.1Mbps. Since then, more than 70,000 premises have been passed on average every week in what is one of the fastest deployments of fibre broadband in the world.
Independent EU data shows the UK to be significantly ahead of most European countries when it comes to superfast broadband availability and take up. Availability is roughly double that in France whilst take up is 50% higher than in Germany, double that in Spain and 12 times that in Italy.
The UK is also doing well when it comes to speed. The average broadband speed in the UK has jumped from around 23Mbps in 2014 to almost 29Mbps in 2015, an increase of 27%. That measure is set to increase as more customers choose to upgrade from copper to fibre broadband.
Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said: “The UK is making great progress with fibre broadband. Availability and take up are well ahead of most European countries and I’d like to thank the thousands of Openreach engineers who have worked so tirelessly to make this happen.
“The job isn’t finished however and we are working hard to get coverage to 95% and above. We are also exploring how we can improve speeds for the million or so premises in the final few per cent of the country.
“Our approach has delivered affordable superfast services to the vast majority of the country in the fastest possible time. We want to build upon that by making ultrafast broadband available to most of the UK. We will do this using a mix of G.fast technology and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP), with the latter focused mainly on new developments and small businesses in high streets and business parks.”
Since 2009, Openreach engineers have upgraded more than 4,700 telephone exchanges and installed tens of thousands of street cabinets across the country. The business estimates its engineers have spent more than 10 million man hours rolling out fibre and driven 72 million miles – the equivalent of 150 return trips to the moon.
The vast majority of the roll out has been funded by BT on a purely commercial basis with the company accepting a double digit year payback on its multi billion pound investment. Around four million of the 25 million premises have been reached as a result of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme under which BT and the public sector both contribute significant funds to reach areas that the private sector would not have reached on its own.
The overall BDUK programme is on track and under budget with the aim being that 95% of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by the end of next year.
The Government is consulting on a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation to cover the remainder of the UK and Openreach stands ready to play a supportive role in delivering that. It is exploring a range of potential solutions that could be deployed subject to a supportive regulatory environment.
Openreach has also outlined ambitious plans to deliver ultrafast speeds to 10 million premises by 2020, and to the majority of the UK within a decade. It will do this using a mix of G.fast technology and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.
The business has announced new FTTP trials, including two in Bradford, to see whether the technology can be installed more quickly and efficiently in business parks and high streets.
Whilst every business in the UK already has access to ultrafast speeds via dedicated lines (known as ‘Ethernet’), the results of the trials – and feedback from industry – could lead to a new business-grade FTTP product being developed for small businesses with speeds of up to 1Gbps and strong service guarantees.
 Ofcom Consumer Bulletin, October 2009
 Ofcom European Broadband Scorecard, December 2015
 Ofcom UK Home Broadband Report. March 2016
 Subject to regulatory certainty