Wales to Benefit in Openreach’s Largest Ever ‘Hard to Reach’ Full Fibre Build

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Hundreds of thousands of Welsh homes and businesses in more than 45 villages, market towns and rural areas set to benefit

Openreach today outlined plans to make ultra-reliable and gigabit-capable full fibre broadband available to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in 45 market towns and villages across Wales.

The new locations, including Aberystwyth, Llanelli, Abergavenny and Bangor will be upgraded by Openreach, without taxpayer subsidy and it’s hoped having access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in Europe will boost their post-covid economic recovery.

Work is expected to get underway in many of the announced locations within the next 12-18 months, although due to the size of the build, some places will see work continue into 2024.The new Welsh locations are part of a wider announcement to make the new technology available to a further 3.2 million premises in the UK’s hardest to reach ‘final third’.

This follows the recent announcement that Welsh Government is to extend its BDUK contract with Openreach to build fibre broadband to those local authority areas with less than 90 per cent superfast broadband coverage.

The build is at the forefront of a massive £12 billion investment, which will see Openreach’s ambition to build ‘Full Fibre’ iv infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the mid-to-late 2020s – delivering significant economic, social and environmental benefits for rural and urban communities, assuming the right regulatory and political fibre enablers are in place.

Connie Dixon, Openreach’s Partnership Director for Wales, said:

“We’ve already upgraded tens of thousands of homes and business across Wales to full fibre. As well as keeping the existing network running throughout the Covid crisis, our engineers have safely and with social distancing in place, continued building the new infrastructure to make sure that as lockdown restrictions ease, our network is there to support families, businesses and the economic recovery.

“I’d encourage everyone to check if they can switch to the new technology, and if you can, get in touch with your broadband provider to find out more about the many benefits. ‘Full fibre’ is more reliable and more resilient meaning fewer faults and more predictable, consistent speeds. It is also ‘future-proof’ to easily meet the growing data demands of future technologies.”

There are clear economic benefits to building full fibre in more rural areas. In a report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – “Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth” – commissioned by Openreach last year, revealed that connecting everyone in Wales to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create nearly a £2 billion boost to the Welsh economy.

The report also revealed that 25,000 people in Wales could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity. This could include roles within small businesses and entrepreneurs – as well as allowing thousands more people to work remote by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.

Openreach CEO, Clive Selley, said:

“This year we’ve all seen the importance of having a decent broadband connection and at Openreach, we’re convinced that Full Fibre technology can underpin the UK’s economic recovery.

“Right now, we’re building a new, ultra-reliable full-fibre network that will boost productivity, cut commuting and carbon emissions, and connect our families, public services and businesses for decades to come. It’s Ofcom’s proposals that give us the right conditions to build commercially in hardest to reach areas.

“We’re determined to find inventive engineering solutions and effective partnership funding models to reduce costs and enable us to connect as many communities as possible across the UK without public subsidy.

“Openreach is leading the charge to help UK Government achieve its target of making gigabit capable networks available nationwide by 2025. And we hope that by publishing our own plans, we can help ensure that taxpayers only fund connections in communities that really need public support.”

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters said:

“While over 95 per cent of premises in Wales can now access superfast broadband we know there is more to do to reach the final premises.  We have recently announced an extension to our roll-out with Openreach, focussing on local authority areas with less than 90 per cent coverage. This is alongside our other schemes to fund connectivity solutions for those not in any future roll-out plans.  I welcome this announcement by Openreach which will further increase the number of premises which will be able to access full fibre, which has the potential to provide some of the fastest speeds available.”

Openreach has already built Full Fibre technology to over three million premises across the UK – including over a quarter in the final third of the country. More than 120,000 homes and businesses have also signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership CFP programme.  A CFP enables the company to work with a local community to build a customised co-funded solution and bring fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.

The company is publishing an extended list of 251 locations in the final third where it will build the new network over the next three years. ii The data provides more clarity on its plans – giving greater certainty to local authorities, investors and customers – and supports the Government’s strategy to accelerate commercial investments in Full Fibre networks throughout the UK. To view the full list of market towns and villages included in the announcement, please visit – https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/.

People interested in seeing whether they can upgrade their broadband can see what’s available in their area by entering their postcode into our online fibre checker: https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/fibre-first?utm_source=fibrecheckerpr_furl&utm_medium=furl&utm_campaign=fibre_checker_pr#FibrecheckerX