News | 01/02/18

Liverpool leads UK’s ultrafast broadband drive

Liverpool will be one of the first cities to benefit from proposals announced today by Openreach for a major acceleration of its ultrafast fibre broadband network.

Openreach, Britain’s national broadband infrastructure provider, has announced proposals to extend by 50 per cent its target for rolling out Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) to reach 3 million premises across the UK by the end of 2020 through a new ‘Fibre First’ programme.

Eight major cities – Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester – make up the first phase of Openreach’s Fibre First programme which will connect up to 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs with FTTP networks, with build starting in 2018.

It is expected that tens of thousands of Liverpool homes and businesses will benefit from this £250m expansion, boosting major regeneration projects such as the Knowledge QuarterLiverpool Waters and Ten Streets.

Key to bringing the scheme to Liverpool was the city council’s control over its own highways network, its innovative Landlord Licensing Scheme to improve communications with property owners, and an offer of office space for the project in the council owned Cunard Building.

Further details of the roll-out in the city, which will create up to 60 local apprenticeships, are expected to be announced later in the year.

According to independent website thinkbroadband, more than 97 per cent of Liverpool households and businesses already have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above.

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said: “Through the Fibre First programme, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an Ultrafast Britain. We are accelerating our plans to build FTTP to three million premises by 2020 which sets the course to reach ten million by the mid-2020s with the right conditions. Where possible going forward, we will ‘fibre first’.

“Working closely with central and local government and our communication provider customers, we will identify the cities, towns and rural areas where we can build a future-proofed, FTTP network that’s capable of delivering gigabit speeds to all homes and businesses at an affordable cost.

Reaching three million premises by 2020 sets Openreach on the right trajectory to achieve its ambition of building a ten million FTTP footprint by the mid-2020s and, if the conditions are right, to go significantly beyond, bringing the benefits of FTTP to the majority homes and businesses across the UK.

Welcoming the announcement, Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said:”I’m delighted that Liverpool has been selected as one of the first UK cities to benefit from Openreach’s ‘Fibre First’ programme.

“A world-class city deserves world-class digital infrastructure, and we believe full-fibre technology will be key to unlocking the long-term productivity of businesses in this region.

“Beyond the economic benefits, ultrafast broadband also has the potential to transform lives and support a better, fairer and more inclusive society. This technology will enable us to deliver more effective public services online, and support this region’s residents to access resources and services online that can improve their health, skills and general wellbeing.”

Matthew Hemmings, infrastructure delivery director in the North for Openreach said: “This latest multi million pound investment in Liverpool by Openreach will give a vital boost to the city’s households and businesses. For our vibrant business community, which is known for its innovation, it will mean more firms benefiting from the huge opportunities offered by this exciting technology to attract new customers, provide new services and work more efficiently.”

“Local households, too, will find ultrafast broadband a major step forward when they go online for reasons ranging from training and research to shopping, staying in touch with friends and family and entertainment.”

The pace and extent of this large-scale investment will depend on the speed with which the conditions to enable an acceptable return on the investment are secured. Support is needed from communication providers (CPs), central and local government and the regulator to deliver key enablers, including: achieving low build and connection costs; achieving rapid take-up of and generating incremental revenue from the platform; and having a supportive regulatory and public policy framework.

As with any infrastructure investment, if Openreach is unable to secure an acceptable return, it will need to review its ongoing capital commitments to the programme.
Gfast* remains a critical component of Openreach’s ultrafast strategy and an important platform that will be deployed at scale in the UK to millions of premises.

Gfast allows Openreach to deliver ultrafast speeds over existing copper lines. It builds on existing Openreach networks, so it is quick to deploy with minimal disruption and at relatively low cost. Openreach remains committed to rolling out Gfast at speed. Openreach will employ a Fibre First ethos and will not build Gfast and FTTP to the same locations