Openreach today outlined plans to build ultrafast, ultra-reliable Full Fibre broadband to at least three million more homes and businesses – including around 415,000 across Wales – in some of the UK’s hardest to serve communities. It means fewer homes and businesses will require taxpayer subsidies to upgrade.
A total of 140 exchanges across the country are being upgraded, with the majority of homes and businesses in places such as Abersoch, Bethesda, Borth, Cardigan, Nefyn, Nelson, Narberth, Llantwit Major & Kidwelly set to benefit from what will be a massive nationwide, five-year feat of civil engineering.
More than 20,000 households and businesses on Ynys Môn are set to benefit alongside more than 30,000 in Pembrokeshire, around 30,000 in Powys, more than 20,000 in Gwynedd and approximately 20,000 in Monmouthshire.
The company’s updated build plan will be fundamental to the UK Government achieving its target of delivering ‘gigabit capable broadband’ to 85 per cent of UK by 2025 and it follows an extended investment commitment by its parent, BT Group – which means Openreach will now build Full Fibre technology to a total of 25 million premises, including the additional three million in hardest-to-serve communities.
Today’s announcement expands on Openreach’s existing nationwide build plans, which already include hundreds of thousands more premises in 100 other Welsh cities, towns and villages. The company is also working in partnership with Welsh Government to reach those that are in the final 5%.
The plans also include an extension to the company’s biggest ever recruitment drive, with a further 1,000 new roles being created in 2021 on top of the 2,500 jobs which were announced in December 2020 – of which around 100 were across Wales. This means that by the end of 2021, Openreach will have created and filled more than 9,000 apprenticeship roles since 2017/18.
Connie Dixon, Openreach’s regional director for Wales, said:
“Building a new Ultrafast broadband network across Wales is a massive challenge and some parts of the country will inevitably require public funding. But our expanded build plan means taxpayer subsidies can be limited to only the hardest to connect homes and businesses. And with investments from other network builders, we’d hope to see that shrink further.
“This is a hugely complex, nationwide engineering project – second only to HS2 in terms of investment. It will help level-up the UK because the impact of Full Fibre broadband stretches from increased economic prosperity and international competitiveness, to higher employment and environmental benefits. We’re also delighted to continue bucking the national trend by creating more Welsh jobs, with apprentices joining in their droves to start their careers as engineers.
“We’ll publish further location details and timescales on our website as the detailed surveys and planning are completed and the build progresses. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can also check what’s already available which includes the thousands of homes and businesses across Wales that can already access Full Fibre.”
Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, said:
“First class digital infrastructure is critical to achieving social and economic prosperity for our communities and it is vital that all areas of Wales have the connectivity they need to flourish.
“The UK Government is committed to boosting access to broadband for people and businesses across Wales and projects like the one being carried out by Openreach are a huge step forward in achieving that goal.”
Welcoming the announcement, Lee Waters, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, said:
“Fast, reliable broadband is more important than ever, so seeing more homes and businesses set to be connected is definitely welcome.”
“Through our Superfast Cymru programme we stepped in with a £200m public sector investment to bring superfast broadband coverage across Wales up to 95%, despite broadband not being devolved. With the roll-out of even faster, gigabit broadband already gathering pace we continue to work with Openreach to use public funding to support properties in some of the hardest to reach parts of Wales.
“Broadband is a key utility and we’ll continue to support all efforts to boost connections the length of breadth of Wales.”
Openreach is already building Full Fibre quicker, at lower cost and higher quality than anyone else in the UK, having made the technology available to more than 4.7 million homes and business so far.
With download speeds of 1 Gbps, it’s up to 10 times faster than the average home broadband connection. That means faster game downloads, better quality video calls and higher resolution movie streaming.
You can also use multiple devices at once without experiencing slowdown – so more people in your household can get online at once. Even if the rest of your family are making video calls, streaming box sets or gaming online, all at the same time – you won’t experience stuttering, buffering or dropouts.
Full fibre is also less affected by peak time congestion – so you can enjoy your Saturday night blockbuster in 4K without the dreaded buffering screen.
Surf, shop, game, play, click, teach, talk, work, create, learn, buy, sell, watch and do business without skipping a beat or slowing down.
The company’s Chief Engineer unit is using a range of innovations and techniques to deliver world class build costs, whilst a major investment in 11 new regional training centres – including the National Training Centre for Wales in Newport – is helping to equip and skill thousands of new engineers.
Openreach plays an important role across Wales. More than 2,500 of our people live and work here. Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) highlighted the clear economic benefits of connecting everyone in Wales to full fibre. It estimated this would create a £1.3 billion boost to the local economy.