It may be in the middle of a regulatory row concerning new wholesale pricing arrangements for its services, but BT broadband division Openreach is celebrating a major milestone in its upgrade of the UK’s broadband infrastructure, with the village of Ketton, Rutland, in the East Midlands of England, becoming the location of the 10 millionth build in its full-fibre roll-out programme.
The roll-out of full-fibre broadband to homes, businesses and public services across the country is part of a £15bn infrastructure project to provide reliable, fast broadband that meets the needs of modern life. It adds that since the pandemic, the UK’s internet usage has soared, doubling in 2020 and increasing year on year, with more data downloaded in 2022 than ever before, and that the rise in usage is set to continue as technology becomes more sophisticated and integral to people’s daily lives, with social changes such as working from home and the boom in online learning.
Openreach has so far made full-fibre broadband available to more than three million premises in the hardest-to-reach, typically very rural, parts of the country, and over three million in areas identified by the government as a priority for levelling up. The development in Ketton will see more than 900 homes and businesses in the rural location able to subscribe to an ultrafast full-fibre connection.
The provider added that it has already made full-fibre available to more than 9,000 medical facilities, including GP surgeries, hospitals and research labs, across the country. It said ultrafast broadband would benefit health services by improving connections with experts, remote monitoring of patients, easier access to records and faster appointments, and points to a future where the use of artificial intelligence could achieve better health outcomes by helping review, triage and refer patients based on diagnostic scans and data.
Openreach has also made full-fibre available to over 13,500 educational facilities such as nurseries, schools and universities, improving online learning facilities for students nationally. There are around 67,000 such facilities in the UK. It has also made full-fibre available to the top 25 areas identified by the Social Mobility Commission as least socially mobile, providing full-fibre availability to 409,000 premises in these areas.
As it was announcing its full-fibre milestone, Openreach said it was confident that its network would also help to grow the UK economy by connecting people and businesses, citing data from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) that calculated full-fibre transformation could give a £72bn boost to the output of the UK economy by 2030. This would be the equivalent of 294,960 new SMEs being created across the country or adding 25 new businesses in every local council in the UK. Openreach believes that by providing increased capability for people to work from home, an estimated 431,000 new people could enter the workforce by 2026. This, it said, would benefit older workers, parents and carers as groups that particularly benefit from remote, flexible working.
“Today marks a significant milestone in our transformation of the UK’s broadband. Not only will access to full-fibre technology improve the speed and reliability of the internet connections used by people, businesses and public services, it also provides us with the infrastructure we need to meet the demands of an increasingly digital world,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley.
“With this upgrade, we can improve the lives of people in the UK, offering economic opportunities, alleviating social challenges and creating the foundation for life-changing technology. Now we’re focused on the next phase of our build. Our engineers are building rapidly across the country, and we already have plans in place that will see full-fibre broadband reach over 25 million premises. We’re excited for the future that full-fibre will create for everybody across the UK.”