Salisbury became the first fully fibred, ultrafast city for Openreach in record-breaking time – read how innovation made it possible.
Our Full Fibre phone and broadband network was built out across the entire city of Salisbury in just under a year, reaching more than 20,000 homes and businesses. The new network is far faster and more reliable than the older copper one, which we’re in the process of retiring. By 2022, everyone in Salisbury will have needed to have switched over to the new Full Fibre network.
It took 60 dedicated Openreach people - some working away from home for a year - and a lot of imagination to get it done.
Chief Engineer’s Office
There were twelve of us from the Chief Engineer’s Office working on Salisbury. I’m the project manager; I started out as an apprentice engineer at Openreach and have worked my way up to this job. It’s our job to solve all the tricky engineering problems. Because of the historical and incredibly beautiful architecture of Salisbury, there were some unique challenges.
For the listed buildings we used a new “slimline” connectorised block terminal (CBT), it’s the same size as a mobile phone – less than a quarter of the normal size. These are connected to the facades of buildings or our telegraph poles – their size means they’re much less noticeable than older CBTs, so they worked really well with Salisbury’s heritage architecture.
Retractable cables were another first, they were used for long areas of terraced houses and shop fronts. They save time for the build as well as being less obtrusive. The process is also less disruptive, because you don’t need to deploy as many diggers.
For blocks of flats we used new external InvisiLight ® cabling – it’s a fibre optic cable with 24 fibres inside. This allowed us to connect historical buildings externally and almost invisibly. It also helps address the common problem of landlords not giving us wayleave permission to get inside and connect their tenants to Full Fibre.
I feel really proud
I’m most proud of completing the project early, considering we weren’t just putting in the network but also the connectors for each property. We did way more in less time than we’ve ever done it before!
That’s important because our Full Fibre build is massively up-scaling over the next few years so innovation and doing things quicker is vital to our success and hitting government targets, as well as providing better connectivity to the homes and businesses of the UK.
Salisbury was the test bed to learn how to do things better, faster and in a more aesthetically and eco-friendly way.
We were working some crazy hours, but did whatever was needed, within the legal restrictions and while working safely. We all know each other pretty well now and are a tight team. You can’t achieve something like this without working well as a team. Literally every part of Openreach came together to do this programme collaboratively.
The team and I can’t wait to celebrate when we’re allowed to meet up again in our Salisbury local for completion drinks.
We’ve had great feedback from people in Salisbury too, especially when we sponsored the Christmas lantern parade, which wasn’t going to go ahead for the first time in years due to lack of funding. Openreach sponsored the parade and the local team volunteered to carry our own Openreach “fibre squid” lantern.
We also set up a couple of showcase vans in market square to show people what we were doing in Salisbury and all the benefits Full Fibre brings for them. It was a wonderful community event and it helped us light up Salisbury with lanterns, which is lovely as we’re also “lighting up” Salisbury with Full Fibre broadband.
It’s available to order now, you can check your own postcode here.
Chief Engineer’s Office