Openreach has, today, outlined plans to build ultrafast, ultra-reliable Full Fibre broadband to at least three million more homes and businesses. This figure includes around 415,000 across Wales in locations including Southerndown, Llantwit Major, Cowbridge, St Athan and Dinas Powys in the Vale of Glamorgan.
A total of 140 exchanges across the country are being upgraded, with the majority of homes and businesses in places such as Abersoch, Bethesda, Borth, Cardigan, Nefyn, Nelson, Narberth, Llantwit Major and Kidwelly set to benefit from what will be a massive nationwide, five-year feat of civil engineering.
The company’s updated build plan will be fundamental to the UK Government achieving its target of delivering ‘gigabit-capable broadband’ to 85 percent of the UK by 2025 and it follows an extended investment commitment by its parent, BT Group – which means Openreach will now build Full Fibre technology to a total of 25 million premises, including the additional three million in hardest-to-serve communities.
Today’s announcement expands on Openreach’s existing nationwide build plans, which already include hundreds of thousands more premises in 100 other Welsh cities, towns and villages. The company is also working in partnership with Welsh Government to reach those that are in the final 5%.
The plans also include an extension to the company’s biggest ever recruitment drive, with a further 1,000 new roles being created in 2021 on top of the 2,500 jobs which were announced in December 2020 – of which around 100 were across Wales. This means that by the end of 2021, Openreach will have created and filled more than 9,000 apprenticeship roles since 2017/18.
Connie Dixon, Openreach’s regional director for Wales, said:
“Building a new Ultrafast broadband network across Wales is a massive challenge and some parts of the country will inevitably require public funding. But our expanded build plan means taxpayer subsidies can be limited to only the hardest to connect homes and businesses. And with investments from other network builders, we’d hope to see that shrink further.
“This is a hugely complex, nationwide engineering project – second only to HS2 in terms of investment. It will help level-up the UK because the impact of Full Fibre broadband stretches from increased economic prosperity and international competitiveness, to higher employment and environmental benefits. We’re also delighted to continue bucking the national trend by creating more Welsh jobs, with apprentices joining in their droves to start their careers as engineers.
“We’ll publish further location details and timescales on our website as the detailed surveys and planning are completed and the build progresses. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can also check what’s already available which includes the thousands of homes and businesses across Wales that can already access Full Fibre.”
Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, said:
“First class digital infrastructure is critical to achieving social and economic prosperity for our communities and it is vital that all areas of Wales have the connectivity they need to flourish.
“The UK Government is committed to boosting access to broadband for people and businesses across Wales and projects like the one being carried out by Openreach are a huge step forward in achieving that goal.”
Welcoming the announcement, Lee Waters, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, said:
“Fast, reliable broadband is more important than ever, so seeing more homes and businesses set to be connected is definitely welcome.”
“Through our Superfast Cymru programme we stepped in with a £200m public sector investment to bring superfast broadband coverage across Wales up to 95%, despite broadband not being devolved. With the roll-out of even faster, gigabit broadband already gathering pace we continue to work with Openreach to use public funding to support properties in some of the hardest to reach parts of Wales.
“Broadband is a key utility and we’ll continue to support all efforts to boost connections the length of breadth of Wales.”