Full-fibre broadband could boost UK economy by £60 billion, says Openreach

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Connecting the UK to Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband by 2025 could deliver productivity of up to £60 billion, according to BT’s access division, Openreach.

According to the Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (CEBR), commissioned by Openreach, this productivity boost would amount to around £1,700 per worker.

The report suggests that wide-scale FTTP would mean half a million people could be bought back into the workforce and at least 400,000 more people could work from home.

The report finds that with enhanced connectivity, 270,000 people could move out of cities and help stimulate regional and rural economic growth. Further, 300 million commuting trips could be saved each year, with three billion fewer kilometres travelled by car.

A separate report from 02 Business last week calculated that UK businesses could gain £34.1 billion in productivity as a result of enhanced connectivity, It said better access to tools and data and less time commuting could see each worker free up 3.14 hours a week, or almost 18 working days a year.

Post-Brexit economy

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said he wants to see 100% rollout of fibre-optic broadband to properties across the UK “in five years at the outside". The National Infrastructure Commission has estimated the cost at £33.4 billion, with the majority of this coming from private investment.

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.

"We’re currently building full-fibre to around 22,000 premises a week– which is one every 28 seconds. But we want to go even faster and further - to 15 million premises and beyond if we can get the right conditions to invest.”

He added: “With the right policies and regulation, we can build a 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.”

Speeding it up

Openreach has put forward proposals that it says would massively accelerate the roll-out. These include an exemption from business rates to stimulate more investment; government action to lower costs and reduce barriers to deployment; and Ofcom setting the right conditions to unlock the commercial case for companies to build across most of the UK.

In August, an open letter from the UK telecoms industry outlined their requirements to make Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand for full-fibre broadband for all by 2025 a reality.

It was signed by the leaders of the Internet Services Providers’ Association, the Federation of Communications Services and Independent Networks Cooperative Association which represent the telecoms industry, including large infrastructure players, start-ups and suppliers.

Members include BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Google and Vodafone. Issues pinpointed included: reform of the ‘fibre tax’ (the organisations argue that fibre cables are still taxed as if they were to business premises); action on wayleaves (agreements relating to the use of land and property for telecoms infrastructure); connectivity mandates for new builds; and tackling the skills challenge.