Promising is easy, delivery can be harder and that sums up the ambition to get full fibre to every home in the United Kingdom by the end of 2025 (i.e 31st March 2026). Boris Johnson has won the Conservative leadership election and is due to start his job as Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon. His acceptance speech text includes a snippet on the full fibre plan mentioned during the campaign. 'And like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity with better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household.' Extract from Boris Johnson speech, full text on The Spectactor
As one of those that raised doubts about reaching the target, the aim around what we have said is not about being negative but being pragmatic and understanding the scale of the task ahead. Talking about fantastic full fibre for every household is going to be popular but delivering means getting manifolds or fibre pots installed outside some 28-29 million homes across the UK and with other infrastructure projects that will compete for people who can do the street works required the issue is not technology but getting enough humans on the streets building the network. The providers rolling out full fibre are ramping up hence the announcements from CityFibre of new civils contracts being signed and Openreach recruiting more staff to help them hit their current targets. The question that DCMS and Chancellor will need to address even before Brexit (be it deal or no deal) happens on 31st October 2019 is what help either financial or resources will be available to the private sector so that they can commit to the existing 15 million that is roughly what is in the pipeline for 2025. We say commit since there are various conditions about stability that could see operators (and we are not just talking Openreach) scale back their existing ambitions. One question now is how much further beyond the 15 million premises can the commercial operators commit to within the timescale. If there is going to be more public money available then how this is shared out becomes the hot topic, does the LFFN (Local Full Fibre Network) and RGC (Rural Gigabit Connectivity) schemes get topped up with several billion pounds at which point our presumption is that we would see a lot more of the CityFibre announcements about various councils being anchor tennants and full fibre to the residential areas to follow in a couple of years. Of course passing the 30 million plus households in the UK with full fibre is one thing, actually connecting millions of them is another whole logistical battle. If the roll-out to get 100% premises passed goes into overdrive we predict that we will very soon comments appearing of people waiting for many months for someone to come back and actually connect them to the bit of the fibre in the street. Full fibre for all for 2025 is to be welcomed, the questions now are around who pays and who builds it and who connects the public up to it. Of course we are assuming that the 2025 date has not already changed.
Andrew joined the thinkbroadband team very early on and made his mark as 'Doctor Broadband' helping many users solve broadband problems. He is a widely acknowledged expert on broadband and chairs the ISPA Awards judging panel.