Openreach unveils plan to boost rural full fibre

Openreach unveils plan to boost rural full fibre

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Infrastructure firm Openreach has published details of its plans to accelerate the rollout of full fibre broadband to market towns, rural villages and other hard-to-reach parts of the UK.

The company has unveiled a list of 227 locations that are set to benefit from this technology, with building work set to begin across the next 14 months.

The towns and villages covered by the expansion are located all across the UK, from Brixham and Furzeham in the south-west of England to Prestatyn in Wales and Kelso in Scotland.

In total, some 250,000 homes and businesses will be covered by the new rollout, which follows on from the successful completion of a range of village trials carried out at the end of last year.

These pilot projects utilised a range of new tools, skills and techniques to help Openreach extend its full fibre network into areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

Chief executive of Openreach Clive Selley said: "Openreach has always been committed to doing our bit in rural Britain - delivering network upgrades in communities that are harder to reach and less densely populated. We intend to build a significant portion of our full-fibre network in these harder to reach areas of the UK and are announcing 227 locations today."

He added the firm's rollout of full fibre connectivity is already progressing well, with Openreach now adding homes and businesses at a rate of 26,000 premises a week, in over 100 locations. This is up from just 13,000 premises a week at this time last year and means so far, two million premises have been brought into the network, of which a quarter are within rural areas.

One rural business to have benefitted from this scheme is award-winning ice cream maker Callestick Farm in Cornwall, which has been able to tap into new markets around the world as the result of improved full fibre connectivity.

Operations director at the firm Ben Parker explained: "The key benefit is that we will now be able to use the cloud and cloud-based applications within our business operations. This should help us build still closer relationships with customers and will also remove the need for travel to some meetings, so this will bring cost and time savings as well.

"Everyday emailing, internet banking and online research is also so much faster and this all adds up, saving us time and increasing productivity."

Openreach also cited figures from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which forecast that reliable full fibre connectivity could enable 270,000 people to move out of cities and into rural areas by 2025, helping to stimulate regional and rural economic growth in these locations.

At the same time, 400,000 more people would be able to work from home - saving 300 million commuting trips every year - while half a million people could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity.

Mr Selley added: "Our ambition is to reach 15 million premises by the mid-2020s if the right investment conditions are in place. Currently, the biggest missing piece of this puzzle is getting an exemption from business rates on building fibre cables, which is critical for any fibre builder's long-term investment case."

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