High Fibre Diet for Wales

Welsh Assembly drop-in session highlights Openreach’s plans for Wales’ digital future

Welsh politicians had a chance to quiz engineers from Openreach about Wales’ digital future during a drop-in session at the Welsh Assembly earlier this week.

They heard about the work being done to upgrade the country’s broadband network and how politicians can help industry investors to speed up the build.

According to thinkbroadband, the UK's largest independent broadband news and information site, nearly 95 per cent of Wales  can currently access superfast broadband at 30Mbps+.

However, the focus is now shifting to ‘ultrafast’ full fibre, where fibre is run from the exchange direct to the home or business. Full fibre deployment is already under way in Cardiff, Swansea and Barry as part of Openreach’s Fibre First programme while more ultrafast locations are expected to be announced across Wales shortly.

Recently a new report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) revealed that connecting everyone in Wales to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £2 billion boost to the economy, by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.

The report also revealed that just under 25,000 people could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity. This could include roles within small businesses and entrepreneurs – as well as allowing thousands more people to work remotely.

Openreach are also working with the Welsh Government to roll out fibre broadband to a further 26,000 properties across Wales that currently cannot access fast reliable broadband – among the final ‘5 per cent’. All of these properties will also be able to access ultrafast speeds once they are connected.

The Assembly event was hosted by Connie Dixon, Partnership Director for Wales, who said:

“We’re already working closely with the Welsh Government to bring fibre broadband to Wales and as a result of this partnership nearly 95 per cent of the country can access superfast broadband today. But we also know there’s more to do and we’re working hard to reach those properties that currently can’t access fibre broadband.

“We’re also committed to future-proofing the network with full fibre technology but in order to build a new full fibre network for Wales we’ll need the support from our public sector partners.

“It won’t be quick or easy, but action to reduce red tape and remove barriers will speed things up. Full fibre will open up huge possibilities for the Welsh economy and help answer long terms challenges like energy use, climate change and sustainable rural communities.”

More than 1.3m Welsh households and businesses can connect to Openreach’s digital network through their service provider – including household names like BT, Sky and TalkTalk.

Event sponsor Vikki Howells AM said before the session: “Delivering next generation broadband is a key priority for us.”

“With the importance of broadband to modern lives, I’m pleased to be able to host this event, which will give AMs a chance to talk to Openreach engineers about their plans and also raise any queries on behalf of their constituents.”

AMs and researchers that attended the drop-in event also got an opportunity  to connect tiny glass fibres used to transmit data at the speed of light and chat to some of the 600 new engineers that Openreach has taken on across Wales over the last 36 months.

Openreach is the UK’s leading full fibre builder, with plans to reach four million homes by March 2021