Openreach comes out swinging with FTTH expansion plan

BT's network arm Openreach has gone on the offensive to prove that its fibre rollout is on track.

Nick Wood

December 12, 2022

3 Min Read
Openreach comes out swinging with FTTH expansion plan

BT’s network arm Openreach has gone on the offensive to prove that its fibre rollout is on track.

The UK incumbent on Monday added 12 new locations to its planned footprint, which will extend its reach to a further 184,000 premises. With the exception of the village of Healing in Lincolnshire, all the new areas are in and around London, and include Chiswick, Heathrow, Kensington, Stratford and Wembley among others (full list below).

Going forward, Openreach will also share in more detail where and when it will build its FTTH network. It means that exchanges will fall into one of five categories that range from the deployment already being partially completed, to that particular exchange not being a part of Openreach’s major build programme at all. In between those, you have exchanges that are currently being upgraded; exchanges that will be upgraded in time for services to launch in the next 12 months; and exchanges due for upgrade a bit further down the line.

“Over time, we’ve learnt more and more about building at a large scale, and we want our plans to be as clear and comprehensive as possible. So, we’ve adjusted our published build plans to hopefully make them easier to understand,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley, in a statement.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect to this announcement though is its timing. In late November, the FT reported that Openreach had informed suppliers it could not commit capital to projects due to begin further than six months out. For some suppliers, it meant that some orders they’d already received and validated had to be suspended or even cancelled. The news emerged shortly after two of Openreach’s most aggressive competitors, Virgin Media O2 and CityFibre, bragged about their respective XGS-PON upgrade programmes, and just weeks after BT CEO Philip Jansen raised his long-term cost-cutting target to £3 billion from £2.5 billion due to inflation and rising energy prices.

Some outlets reported the Openreach development as a scaling back of its fibre build in the face of economic uncertainty. The telco strongly denied this, reiterating that it still intends to pass 25 million premises with fibre by 2026. Nonetheless, its efforts at careful capital management – and the subsequent downbeat coverage it generated – put it on the defensive.

This week, Openreach seems determined to inject some positivity back into the proceedings.

“Despite the economic challenges, we’re now building this transformational technology to well over three million homes a year – and we expect to get to even more over the next 12 months,” Selley said on Monday. “We’re going faster than any builder I’m aware of in Europe.”

Anyone in the UK who wants to know if and when they might be getting fibre to their front door courtesy of Openreach can check the updated build map for themselves.

Full list of new locations: Bayswater, Chiswick, Finchley, Healing, Holborn, Kensington Gardens, South Kensington, Leagrave, Pimlico, Skyport (including the area around Heathrow), Stratford, Wembley.


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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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