The fibre opportunity in the UK’s most rural areas

12th April 2024

While around 84% of the UK’s population lives in an urban setting, our country is blessed with plenty of areas of true rural beauty. However, this beauty is only skin deep if the practical needs of communities and businesses in these areas aren’t met. In our modern world, better connectivity can be vital in ensuring the sustainability of rural life across the UK.

The Full Fibre transformation could give a £72bn boost to the output of the UK economy in 2030, and its role in creating new employment opportunities is particularly relevant for rural communities in the age of enduring remote and hybrid work.

To date, Openreach has made Full Fibre broadband available to more than 3.8 million premises in the hardest to reach, typically very rural, parts of the country – in addition to another 3 million in areas identified by the Government as a priority for levelling up.

Islands, mountains and haunted houses

We’re committed to a balanced build, which is why out of the over 13.8 million premises we’ve built to, a fair proportion of that has been to rural communities. So if you find yourself in the most remote parts of the UK countryside, don’t be surprised if you see an Openreach van. There is still much more to be done of course, but our engineers can be found out and about in all conditions, laying new fibre and maintaining vital infrastructure around the clock.

Whether it’s problem-solving to reach some of Scotland’s wildest isles, Wales’ highest home in Yr Wyddfa or England’s most haunted village, Openreach is constantly finding innovative ways to bring ultra-fast connectivity to rural areas across the UK.

Rural fibre build – not for the faint-heated

For a relatively small country, the UK packs in an impressive array of practical challenges to the deployment of next-generation fibre technology. Whether it’s hard granite bedrock, vertiginous cliffs or rolling peat bogs – our engineers continually deploy jaw-dropping ingenuity to bring better broadband into homes and businesses in our rural communities, all whilst respecting the environment in which they are working.

As well as one-off solutions, we are pioneering broader technical innovations like subtended headends (SHEs) to bring fibre to the hardest-to-reach properties. These ‘mini exchanges’ are perfect for more rural settings as they can be installed closer to customers by being located inside existing or new street cabinets. Each SHE location has the capacity to connect up to a thousand additional homes and businesses.

Our engineers have deployed more than 100 individual ‘SHEs’ at locations around the UK, connecting over 160,000 premises that would otherwise have been out of reach for commercial build. This approach has also avoided the need to build thousands of kilometres of new fibre cabling.

Another important approach for rural build is Openreach’s Fibre Community Partnership scheme. If an area is not currently part of our current rollout plans, we seek to work with the local community to arrange a customised installation plan. This could be installing new fibre for the first time, or upgrading existing connections – and this initiative has now reached 3.5 million rural homes and businesses in the last five years.

Openreach engineer climbing up a pole in a rural location

Ending the rural disconnect

The UK’s rural communities face many challenges, but connectivity should not be one of them. We firmly believe that better broadband can bring new employment, communication and entertainment opportunities to some of the furthest-flung parts of our country.

To find out more about how Openreach is connecting rural communities, including how your constituents are impacted, or to find out more about our latest build plans, get in touch at