Full fibre broadband would boost East Midlands economy by £3.5 billion

Openreach says it is  is leading the way when it comes to full fibre.
Openreach says it is is leading the way when it comes to full fibre.

Connecting everyone in the East Midlands to ‘full fibre’ broadband by 2025 would create a £3.5 billion boost to the region’s economy, by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.

It has also been revealed that 35,000 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.

The figures are featured in a new report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) – “Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth” [will be available at openreach.co.uk/fullfibreimpact] – commissioned by Openreach, which looks at the economic impacts of a fully-fibred UK.

Last month Digital Minister and Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman visited Butlin;s in Ingoldmells to see its the Quickline 5G technology in action at Butlins

He said: “The government is investing £200 million in 5G across the country and in Ingoldmells it’s helped bring 5G to the Great British institution that is Butlins.

“Testbeds like this one are exploring how 5G can boost Britain’s brilliant tourism experiences and help holidaymakers benefit from speeds up to twenty times faster than 4G.”

Full fibre, Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, not only brings faster broadband speeds - download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (1Gbps) are available – but it’s also more reliable and will meet people’s needs for decades. It’s capable of download speeds around 18 times faster than the current UK average[1].

The Cebr research also highlights the positive impact full fibre broadband would have on rural towns and villages where people have traditionally moved away in search of work. Being able to work from home or set up a home-based business would make these areas appealing once again to workers, boosting the local economy alongside reducing transport and housing pressures in big cities.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach Partnership Director, said: “This report looks at the significant economic benefit and jobs boost that having access to full fibre would create. Openreach – as the UK’s largest telephone and broadband network – is leading the way when it comes to full fibre. We’re reaching 22,000 homes and businesses each week (or one every 28 seconds) in places like Derby, Nottingham and Northampton and we’re looking forward to going even further in the future.

“Full fibre builds on our existing success across the East Midlands. Superfast broadband (speeds of 24 Mbps and above) already reaches more than 97 per cent of homes and businesses[2] and Openreach’s work in the region is a combination of our own investment, our partnerships with local councils, and working directly with local communities to make faster speeds available.”

Building a nationwide full fibre network is the second-largest infrastructure project in the UK, requiring a physical build to more than 30 million front doors, from big cities like Derby, Leicester and Nottingham to the most rural parts of Lincolnshire and Rutland. The National Infrastructure Commission has estimated the cost at £33.4 billion by 2033, with the majority of this coming from private investment.

However, red-tape and punitive business rates on fibre infrastructure currently undermine the investment case and are slowing down the roll-out, meaning that the private sector could struggle to reach ambitious targets set by Government.

Clive Selley, Openreach CEO, said: “Full fibre is a vehicle to turbocharge our economy post-Brexit, with the power to renew towns and communities across the UK. We’re proud to be leading the way with over 1.8 million homes and businesses already having access to our full fibre network. Our nationwide ambition is to go even faster and further than ever before – and build to 15 million premises by the mid-2020s and ultimately the majority of the UK.

“Through the Openreach Fibre First programme, we are now building to 103 locations across the UK and on track to build to four million premises by March 2021. With the right policies and regulation, we can build an even better, more reliable broadband network faster than any other country in the world and unlock the benefits for the whole UK.

“If that doesn’t happen, then many people will be locked out of a more connected future and the UK could lose its status as a global digital leader.”

In response to the report, Openreach has published proposals [will be available at openreach.co.uk/fullfibreimpact] that will enable Government and the industry to massively accelerate the roll-out. These include:

1 An exemption from business rates in order to stimulate more investment

2 Government action to lower costs and reduce barriers to deployment

3 The regulator setting the right conditions to unlock the commercial case for companies to build across most of the UK.

Mike Spicer, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Businesses across the UK tell us there is so much more they could do if residential internet connections were improved - from supporting flexible and agile working to providing new services to consumers. We strongly support initiatives to speed up the rollout of full fibre to premises to position Britain in the premier league of digital-ready countries.”

Many of the premises Openreach has already built to are hard-to-reach rural areas, with over 100,000 across the UK – around 7,400 in the East Midlands including Leabrooks in Derbyshire, Holbeach in Lincolnshire and Ashley in Northamptonshire - now part of Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) scheme.

More than 1,500 Openreach people live and work in the East Midlands and earlier this year it was announced that 185 engineers are being recruited locally.

TalkTalk, Vodafone, BT and Zen, and our fibre broadband network is the biggest in the UK, passing more than 27.5m UK premises

Over the last decade we’ve invested more than £13 billion into our network and, at more than 173 million kilometres – it’s now long enough to wrap around the world 4,314 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 on track to reach four million premises with this ‘full fibre’ technology by March 2021 and ultimately, we want to upgrade the majority of the UK if the conditions are right. We’re also hiring around 3,000 trainee engineers this year to help us build that network and deliver better service across the country.

Openreach is a highly regulated, wholly owned, and independently governed division 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 2019, we reported revenues of £5.1bn.

For more information, visit openreach.co.uk