Full Fibre Broadband; Britain staying ahead in the global infrastructure race

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond has pledged to build nationwide fibre broadband FTTP network by 2033.

In a speech at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual dinner, Hammond promised the availability of fibre-to-the-premesis (FTTP) broadband connections to 15 million homes in the UK by 2025. In addition, he is committed to delivering a nationwide full-fibre network to UK homes by 2033.

“This is ambitious, and it will require industry to connect more than two million additional premises a year for the next seven years…

“We’ll go further, by committing to finish the job – and deliver a nationwide full fibre-to-the-premises network by 2033,”

said the chancellor.

Hammond stressed that full-fibre broadband for the UK economy is comparable to 18th century canals or 19th century railways. In the 21st century, fibre networks will enable infrastructure to drive economic growth.

“We must embrace digital technology, and ensure Britain is at the forefront of the technological revolution…We must build the world class infrastructure and invest in the R&D needed to ensure Britain stays ahead in the global race,” Hammond declared.

Hammond argued that copper and fibre networks running concurrently would benefit neither suppliers or consumers. The plan is to increase incentives for industry to move away from copper.

Full-fibre networks are faster, more reliable and are cheaper to operate than copper.

Too ambitious?

Ofcom’s most recent set of broadband statistics present over a million premises already have access to full-fibre networks. 70% of these being connected in the last 18 months alone. Although initially I was sceptical, Hammond’s speech seems to be achievable.

If conditions for the market to deliver are created and the government use the tools at their disposal, full-fibre is a possibility. For a truly high-speed economy and to keep up with competitors, the Chancellor’s approach seems sensible.

Not just Hammond…

Clive Selley, the CEO of national network builder Openreach, commented that current figures indicate the full-fibre roll out could theoretically hit Hammond’s fibre broadband target.

“We share the chancellor’s full-fibre vision for Britain,” said Selley. “This year we’ll double our FTTP footprint, and by 2020, we will have built it to three million homes across the UK. We want to reach 10 million premises by the mid-2020s and believe we can ultimately fully fibre the majority of the UK under the right conditions.”

It is important to remember that in reality, the extent of future FTTP network builds overlapping is not clear. This is especially when we remember other suppliers such as Virgin Media and Openreach.

Overall however, I believe this target for fibre broadband will make a huge change to the British economy, and a good one too.

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