South West of England broadband boost as Openreach targets 'harder to reach' areas

Across the UK, more than 250,000 homes and businesses in more than 200 villages, market towns and rural areas set to benefit

Openreach today outlined plans to make ultrafast, ultra-reliable and future-proof broadband available in 27 market towns and villages across the South West of England.

It’s part of a bigger announcement involving 227[1] ‘harder to reach’ areas across the UK, with building to start in the next 14 months. It’s part of Openreach’s previously stated target to reach four million homes and businesses with ‘full fibre’ technology by the end of March 2021.

These new locations across Cornwall, Devon, Torbay, Dorset and Somerset are part of the company’s ambition to extend its new ‘full’ fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network outside cities.

The work builds on successful cost busting village trials launched at the tail end of last year which have seen engineers developing a range of new tools, skills and techniques to help Openreach build full fibre in areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

Matthew Galley, Openreach’s Partnership Director in the West of England, said: “This is great news for people living and working here and builds on Openreach’s strong track record of working in rural areas, for years playing a key role alongside local councils to upgrade nearly 95 per cent of the South West of England to superfast broadband. Today’s announcement is about taking that next step and building a full fibre network that is not only faster, but also more reliable and future-proof for generations to come.”

Anthony Mangnall, Member of Parliament for Totnes said, “I am very pleased that Openreach has launched this full fibre programme to connect ‘harder to reach areas’. The South West’s digital connectivity is far behind the rest of the country and I hope today’s announcement will see greater connectivity between our communities and guarantee increased accessibility to our region. I particularly welcome the news that this programme will focus on Brixham, Higher Brixham, Copythorne and Furzeham.”

There are clear economic benefits to building full fibre in rural areas. A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth” - commissioned by Openreach in 2019, 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 revealed that 42,000 people in the region 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., by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.

Openreach’s CEO, Clive Selley, said: “Our full fibre build program is going great guns - having passed over 2 million premises already on the way to our 4m target by March 2021. We’re now building at around 26,000 premises a week in over 100 locations – reaching a new home or business every 23 seconds That’s up from 13,000 premises a week this time last year.

 “Openreach has always been committed to doing our bit in rural Britain - delivering network upgrades in communities that are harder to reach and less densely populated. We intend to build a significant portion of our full-fibre network in these harder to reach areas of the UK and are announcing 227 locations today.

 “Our ambition is to reach 15 million premises by mid-2020s if right investment conditions are in place. Currently, the biggest missing piece of this puzzle is getting an exemption from business rates on building fibre cables which is critical for any fibre builder’s long-term investment case.”

Full fibre technology is already offering plenty of benefits to rural businesses and homes, including award-winning ice cream making business Callestick Farm, in Cornwall, where it has created new markets and business opportunities for the family firm, including helping to establish and grow a new customer base in China.

Callestick Farm’s Operations Director, Ben Parker said: “Marketing is at the heart of our business and now we can really make the most of the internet to reach out to customers. The key benefit is that we will now be able to use the cloud and cloud-based applications within our business operations. This should help us build still closer relationships with customers and will also remove the need for travel to some meetings, so this will bring cost and time savings as well.

"Everyday emailing, internet banking and online research is also so much faster and this all adds up, saving us time and increasing productivity."

Openreach recently reached over two million homes and businesses with full fibre technology and a quarter of its existing footprint already falls within rural areas. More than 120,000 homes and businesses – including 12,000 in the South West of England - have also signed up to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) scheme. The CFP programme enables the company to work with a local community to build a customised co-funded solution and bring fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.

To view the full list of market towns and villages included in this phase of build, please visit our website

More than 3,500 Openreach people live and work in the South West of England.

[1] These are distinct from the Fibre Cities Programme (encompassing cities, towns & boroughs) forward looking view of our build plans here and total excludes the 13 pilot rural locations previously announced in October 2019. See release here.