Vodafone UK links arms with Openreach to build out its full-fibre network

Budge up, CityFibre

Vodafone has inked a deal with BT's Openreach to expand its gigabit broadband network by 500,000 premises – on top of its existing deal with alternative network provider CityFibre for 5 million premises.

From spring 2020 Vodafone will begin using Openreach's Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) pipes in Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, intended to reach 500,000 premises by mid-2021.

Voda is already rolling out gigabit broadband in 12 locations via its agreement with CityFibre. In 2017 it signed a deal for one million homes to get full fibre by 2021, with plans to extend that to another four million in 50 locations by 2025.

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Chief exec Nick Jeffery said: "This initiative with Openreach builds on our existing commitments with CityFibre and underlines our belief in the power of digital technology to connect people for a better future and unlock economic growth for the UK."

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said the firm's full-fibre broadband covers more than 1.9 million premises in the UK. "We're determined to be the partner of choice for all Communications Providers and we'll do that by offering the best connectivity and service with the widest possible coverage throughout the country."

Openreach plans to connect 15 million premises to full fibre by the mid-2020s.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of ThinkBroadband, said: "It seems a perfectly logical step since the Openreach network is currently the largest full-fibre network in the UK and with all the various plans/ambitions it is set to remain the largest full-fibre network in the UK for some years."

Ferguson did, however, point out that there is potential for overlap between the networks.

"If talking gigabit networks, then [Openreach] is the largest currently, but will get overtaken by Virgin Media once their 1Gbps switch-on speeds up.

"Why now and not a year ago? Probably because the network is growing rapidly and the size in some areas is such that they may actually be seeing some customers leaving for BT to sign up to the 160 Mbps or faster services."

Openreach recently reduced its full-fibre prices, which he added, realistically, was "probably the biggest driver" behind the deal.

Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, said: "This is a big win for Openreach. More importantly, it is a strong endorsement of Openreach's commitment to deploying fibre and gigabit connectivity for UK plc.

"This might seem a huge blow to CityFibre, [but] for now there is no reason why Vodafone cannot work with a broad range of partners to achieve the best connections and services for its customers." ®

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