Openreach hits halfway mark in quest to hook up 25M premises with fiber broadband

12.5 million teased with speedy internet, only 4 million take the bait

Openreach claims it has reached the halfway point in its goal of rolling out fiber broadband to 25 million UK premises by the end of 2026.

Openreach, the infrastructure arm of BT, said it has made fiber access available to 12.5 million homes, businesses, and public services across the country as it continues the program to boost uptake of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) or "full-fiber" internet connections.

That figure should be taken with pinch of salt, of course, as it means that the company has now deployed fiber infrastructure into areas that make up a total of 12.5 million premises. Customers are not actually connected until they sign up for a fiber contract with an internet service provider (ISP) that uses Openreach's infrastructure – such as BT, Sky or TalkTalk – and the company informed us that this figure currently stands at just over 4 million.

Openreach has now added another 142 locations to its build program, which it said covers a further 1.4 million homes and businesses, including many in rural areas. The list includes areas in Greater London, Yorkshire, Hampshire, Lanarkshire, and all over the country, but the company provides an interactive map on its website where anyone can enter their postcode to check the status of their area.

The list of locations includes 25 in Scotland like Bannockburn in Stirling, Lochgelly in Fife, and Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire.

Earlier, Openreach said it has completed a four-year project of rolling out fiber in Wales, with the infrastructure capable of reaching more than 44,000 homes and businesses across the country.

Chief executive Clive Selley, said: "Our build rate is still accelerating and it'll take us half the time to reach our next 12.5 million. But we won't be stopping there. Ultimately, we'll reach up to 30 million premises by the end of the decade," Selley said in a statement.

This will help unlock a raft of economic and social benefits by supporting new models of commerce, healthcare, and public services, he added.

Telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight said this news is a significant milestone and one that should be applauded, but more work required to connect harder-to-reach areas.

"Arguably, the toughest job still lies ahead and more needs to be done to ensure all of the UK can be connected with fiber broadband," he told us.

"It does underline the importance of collaboration and longer term certainty among its [BT's] customers in order to reach its targets. However, the entire industry should be working together to ensure there is no significant overbuild on the altnets."

This latter point about smaller alternative network providers, or "altnets," has been the subject of controversy this year because of Openreach's Equinox 2 scheme to encourage take-up of fiber broadband.

Under the scheme, Openreach offers ISPs discounts on wholesale pricing if they can get new subscribers to sign up for fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) via its infrastructure.

Altnets such as Virgin Media and CityFibre had raised objections that this gave Openreach an unfair advantage because it incentivized ISPs to use its network instead of alternatives, but telecoms regulator Ofcom gave it the go-ahead earlier this year.

CCS Insight analyst Kester Mann welcomed the news that Openreach was at the halfway point, saying that the UK is now "full steam ahead on fiber deployment after a depressingly stuttering start."

He said this is an important milestone on the way to reaching Openreach's target, and one that outgoing BT chief Philip Jansen will take pride in, having made it a priority for the operator during his tenure.

Jansen announced in July he would be standing down as CEO of the telecoms giant within 12 months, having overseen a massive cost-cutting program and BT's share price falling by almost half on his watch.

Engineers and other staff might be glad to see the back of Jansen, who has put in motion major job cuts at BT which are expected to see between 40,000 and 55,000 employees made redundant by 2030. ®

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