Openreach's Fibre First programme – what is it?

‘Fibre First’ is Openreach’s programme of building future-proof Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connections to 3 million homes and businesses by the end of 2020.

As of June this year Openreach had already delivered ultrafast fibre broadband to 1.5 million UK premises, with plans for extending this high speed rollout to about 10 million premises by 2025. The ultimate goal, if feasible, is delivery of ultrafast to the majority of UK homes and businesses by 2033.

Openreach is focusing on rolling out FTTP to rural part of the country, in partnership with the UK Government, ensuring that outlying communities get access to the benefits of ultrafast connectivity. With FTTP the fibre optic cable is laid from the local telephone exchange to the property it is servicing, bypassing the old copper wiring and offering far better capacity to cope with high data consuming services such as ultra HD TV, VR (virtual reality) and smart devices in connected homes.

Another technology that is helping Openreach enable ultrafast for more premises is Gfast. Gfast utilises existing network infrastructure but alters the broadband signal to make it ultrafast, all without having to lay new cabling to the property. A fibre connection is run from the exchange to the green fibre street cabinet while some additional technology is added to the street cabinet allowing it to send the faster signal to travel over the existing copper wires in to the premises. Gfast allows Openreach to rollout ultrafast at a quicker pace than if simply concentrating on FTTP alone.

Currently only 3% of UK homes have access to ultrafast broadband compared with 79% in Spain so there is still a long way to go. Back in February the then Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: "I'm glad that Openreach have begun to make this shift in strategy, away from reliance on copper based systems and in favour of the best modern technology.

"We want to encourage a competitive market to rollout this technology and we will work with Openreach, Virgin, CityFibre, Gigaclear, TalkTalk and the growing number of full fibre broadband providers to build a Britain fit for the future."

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