Salisbury fully fibred in record time

Homes and businesses urged to upgrade to “the best broadband in Britain”

Openreach CEO, Clive Selley, today joined MP John Glen to urge homes and businesses to switch to a new ultrafast and ultra-reliable broadband network - as Salisbury celebrates becoming the first entire city in the UK to gain access to Openreach’s new, future-proof Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology.

Openreach engineers have completed the fastest city-wide network build in the UK - making ’Full Fibre’ broadband available to more than 20,000 premises in just under 12-months, starting in March last year and finishing in March 2020[1].

Just 800 homes and businesses have so far upgraded to the new Full Fibre service, but recent research suggests the network could bring a range of economic, social and environmental benefits as the city looks to bounce back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – commissioned by Openreach - revealed that connecting everyone in the South West of England to ‘Full Fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £4.3 billion boost to the region’s economy. The report also found that 42,000 people in the region could return to work through enhanced connectivity - including in small businesses and through entrepreneurship.

The new network will allow thousands more people to work remotely, unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next generation of home-grown businesses.

Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach
There has never been a better time to upgrade to a Full Fibre broadband service. This new digital platform can help the UK’s economy bounce back more quickly from the Covid-19 pandemic and that can start right here in Salisbury.
Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach

In another first, Salisbury has been Openreach’s flagship pilot site for developing and testing ways to upgrade the UK’s old analogue phone network to a new digital service – where voice calls are carried over the same fibre cables as people’s broadband - instead of traditional copper wires.

From December 2020, residents and businesses will no longer be able to buy a traditional analogue landline as part of a longer-term plan to retire slower and less reliable copper-based network throughout the country[2].

Clive Selley, CEO at Openreach, said: “There has never been a better time to upgrade to a Full Fibre broadband service. This new digital platform can help the UK’s economy bounce back more quickly from the Covid-19 pandemic and that can start right here in Salisbury. A full recovery is likely to be measured in years rather than months, but there’s strong evidence that points to Full Fibre broadband being able to turbo-charge that process.

“And from December if you live in the city of Salisbury and want to change your broadband, you’ll have to upgrade to Full Fibre as we start to move closer to a digital world. It makes no sense to run two networks side-by-side, so we’re planning to retire the old, analogue network entirely.

“For Salisbury’s homes, shops, GP surgeries and schools, it will mean fewer broadband faults, faster connections, and a consistent reliable network that will serve the city for decades to come. From homeworking to healthcare, digital trade to entertainment, the possibilities that this new network can bring are almost limitless.”

John Glen, MP for Salisbury and South Wiltshire said: “I’ve welcomed Openreach’s commitment to Salisbury and the hard work of their engineers which means we are now one of the best-connected places in the country. Now is the time for people and businesses in the city to capitalize on this investment. The Coronavirus lockdown has brought into sharp focus the critical role broadband connectivity plays in our lives – whether it is enabling people to work from home, small businesses to trade online or children to keep up with their studies while schools and colleges are closed.

“Full Fibre is more reliable and faster so can help us do much more online, and much more efficiently. For example, it can boost business productivity by enabling cheaper broadband powered phone services, and better access to cloud-based computer services. It is also future-proofed, so will serve Salisbury well for the next wave of bandwidth hungry innovations which consumers and businesses will demand in the years ahead.

“If we’re able to harness these benefits now it will give us a digital springboard for future growth.”

Councillor Ian Blair-Pilling, Cabinet Member for IT, Digitalisation and Operational Assets, Wiltshire Council added: “Connectivity has never been more important to both residents and businesses, and I’m delighted that the people of Salisbury are now able to take advantage of Full Fibre broadband.

“This is all about making sure our community has access to the right technology, for now and in the future, and I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits this brings to our city.”

World First

Openreach engineers used a variety of innovative tools and techniques to build the future-proof network at record-breaking speed and with minimal disruption to local businesses and residents.

In Salisbury’s medieval city centre, engineers were the first in the world to use new super small connectorised block terminals (CBTs) that discreetly connect fibre cables to people’s homes. The slimline units are designed to connect up-to eight premises in one go, without having to erect new poles. They also blend in with surroundings, helping to preserve the character of Salisbury’s historic buildings. More than 200 have been deployed across the city centre, serving around 1,500 homes and businesses.

Other innovations included Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) which allowed Openreach’s engineers to see and map out a clear route for new cables without any drilling, probing or digging – speeding up the whole process and minimizing disruption.

The business has worked closely with Wiltshire Council, Salisbury City Council, Salisbury Business Improvement District , Salisbury Cathedral, Highways Authorities and numerous contractors, to make efficiencies, such as co-locating with street works and planning teams to find better ways of working on planning, road closures and permissions to access private land.

To upgrade to Full Fibre, people can use the Openreach fibre checker and contact a broadband provider offering a service over the new network.

Following Public Health England guidance, Openreach is conducting a phased return to working inside customers’ homes and businesses, which means our engineers are able to start fulfilling more orders. This short video explains what Full Fibre technology is and you can find out more about our Fibre First programme here.

More information about Salisbury’s digital upgrade trials is available here: www.openreach.co.uk/salisbury.

[1] Plans to announce the completion in March were postponed due to the pandemic.

[2] From December, homes that can order Full Fibre will no longer be able to order traditional copper-based phone or broadband services.

Ten fantastic Full Fibre facts:

  1. Connecting everyone in the South West to ‘Full Fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £4.3 billion boost to the region’s economy.
  2. Fibre optics are strands of glass around one tenth the thickness of a human hair. They transmit data using light signals.
  3. A single strand of fibre can provide enough capacity to serve up to 32 individual properties with Gigabit speeds
  4. Pure fibre optic broadband can run at speeds of 1 gigabit per second (1000Mbps) – that’s more than 15 times faster than today’s UK average broadband speed. You can download a two-hour HD film in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. And video gamers could download a 5-gigabyte virtual reality (VR) game in 1.7 minutes, instead of waiting half an hour.
  5. More people getting online at the same time is easier too – a family of four can all stream ultra HD or 4k quality video simultaneously, without waiting or buffering.
  6. Full Fibre is more reliable than traditional copper connections. A Full Fibre broadband signal isn’t affected by external interference whereas copper can be impacted by outside electrical signals – including electric fences and even bad weather! One recent report stated ‘that ‘Full Fibre’ is 70%-80% more reliable than copper resulting in lower fault rates.’
  7. A fibre optic cable can send a signal over 120 miles without any real loss of quality. Traditional copper cables can lose signal at around one mile.
  8. Full Fibre is better for the environment – the amount of electricity used to power fibre is significantly less than needed for copper cables. Better connectivity also enables more people to work from home – which cuts down on commuting. Research suggests fibering up the whole of the UK could save 300 million commuting trips – reducing carbon emissions by 360,000 tonnes.
  9. Full Fibre can boost business productivity. It enables cheaper broadband powered phone services, and better access to cloud-based computing services. For example, Full Fibre connectivity combined with cloud computing means businesses can upload, store, access and download vast amounts of data in minutes instead of hours. Data is backed up and securely archived off-site so not relying on costly, ageing servers taking up expensive office space.
  10. Full Fibre broadband will be crucial in supporting plans to give NHS patients access to ‘virtual clinics’ where patients who don’t physically need to come hospital can get a video consultation with their doctor. It can also allow hospitals to share HD quality graphics of medical scans in seconds to improve diagnosis speeds. For example, medical staff can download a 2 gigabyte CT scan in 40 seconds, instead of 14 minutes.

Digital voice or Voice over IP services only need the internet to function so there is no need for the copper wires that have traditionally carried a phone signal to people’s homes and businesses. With Full Fibre a digital voice service is carried digital data - delivered of the same fibre optic cables that carry your broadband signal

The current, decades old telephone network, is no longer fit for the future and a major upgrade of the landline network is being carried out across the UK and internationally. 2025 will see the closure of the traditional network (the PSTN) in the UK. Anyone who uses a landline for any reason, residential or business, will need to ensure that they have made the switch to an Internet Protocol (IP) service to continue being able to make voice calls.

The PSTN primarily supports landline telephone calls, provides business line services and also supports other services that are less obvious, such as burglar alarms, health pendants, telemetry, CCTV, etc. All of these services will need to switch to an IP-based service.

As part of the record-breaking build, a team of c.60 engineers;

  • Installed over 500km of new fibre-optic cables
  • Cleaned and de-silted over 7km of underground duct
  • Cleared 722 blockages
  • Dug nearly 30km of trenches
  • Built or upgraded 330 underground boxes

Openreach Limited is the UK’s digital network business.  

We’re more than 35,000 people, working in every community to connect homes, schools, shops, banks, hospitals, libraries, mobile phone masts, broadcasters, governments and businesses – large and small – to the world. 

Our mission is to build the best possible network, with the highest quality service, making sure that everyone in the UK can be connected. 

We work on behalf of more than 665 communications providers like BT, SKY, TalkTalk, Vodafone, and Zen, and our broadband network is the biggest in the UK, passing more than 31.8m premises. 

Over the last decade we’ve invested more than £15 billion into our network and, at more than 190 million kilometres – it’s now long enough to wrap around the world 4,798 times. 

Today we’re building an even faster, more reliable and future-proof broadband network which will be the UK’s digital platform for decades to come. We’re making progress towards our full fibre optic network target to reach 25 million premises by December 2026. Research shows a nationwide Full Fibre network could potentially provide a £59bn boost to UK productivity.

To help build the new fibre network and deliver better service across the country – we’ve created and filled more than 9,000 apprenticeship roles in the last two years and we’re recruiting another 1,000 trainee roles in Openreach in 2021. We’re also building greener – we operate the UK’s second largest commercial fleet and want to help lead the transition to electric vehicles, with a target to transition our fleet to being electric in 2030. 

Openreach is a highly regulated, wholly owned, and independently governed unit of the BT Group. More than 90 per cent of our revenues come from services that are regulated by Ofcom and any company can access our products under equivalent prices, terms and conditions. 

For the year ended 31 March 2021, we reported revenue of £5,244m.

For more information, visit www.openreach.co.uk