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Digital minister Matt Hancock promises 'full fibre' eating plan for Blighty

Don't call it FTTP!

Digital minister Matt Hancock has promised there will be a forthcoming government strategy to ensure Blighty's "full fibre future" is realised in the next decade.

Speaking at the Parliament and Internet Conference 2016 today, he told The Register: "There will be more in the coming weeks and months. But I can’t put more flesh on the bones today than recommit to full fibre future," indicating that more details will follow in the Autumn Statement next month.

He said: "We want the full fibre rollout to be delivered as much as possible by the market, but that doesn’t mean we are neutral about whether it happens or not."

Earlier this month Hancock committed the UK to a fibre and 5G future over the next decade, a statement of intent that has been viewed as a welcome change in direction.

He said the UK's current part-fibre, part-copper infrastructure has brought superfast connectivity to the majority of the country, with 95 per cent of the country to have 24mbps next year.

The price we paid for part fibre is that only 2 per cent of the country has full fibre, he said.

Hancock also called for a change of the language "fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP)".

"I try not to call it FTTP any more as I don't think that means much to most people outside this room, instead I call it full fibre. FTTC [fibre-to-the-cabinet] is part fibre. And so [the question is] how do we get to full fibre and what does it mean?"

Also speaking at the event, chief exec of Hyperopic Dana Tobak, reiterated calls by the Independent Networks Co-operative Association, for four-fifths of the UK to get full fibre by 2026.

"With the Alt-nets and BT, it could be as high as 80 per cent. If we invest in the future we will get there."

Jessica Lennard, director of Corporate Affairs and Regulation at TalkTalk, said the approach to "full fibre" has so far been piecemeal. "In answer to the question how much FTTP should we have in the next decade: I'd say as much as possible."

TalkTalk's head Dido Harding has previously said the company would like to roll-out FTTP to 10 million homes across the United Kingdom by 2025.

Kip Meek, strategy adviser to BT's EE, declined to give an estimate as to what would be a realistic FTTP percentage in the next decade.

"I am not going to comment. Technology neutral is my middle name," he said.

Today BT announced its figures for fibre take-up today. Some 440,000 customers signed up to fibre connections on the Openreach network.

The operator has said it intends to connect 10 million customers to its ultrafast hybrid fibre and copper G.Fast technology, which will provide speeds of more than 100mbps by 2020. A further 2 million homes will receive FTTP by that date.

Ofcom is currently decided whether to enforce a legal separation of Openreach from BT - its preferred option - or whether to pursue of full structural separation.

BT's chief exec Gavin Patterson has claimed an Openreach split would make future UK broadband investments more challenging and increase the firm's already-ballooning pension deficit. ®

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