News & update

Ultrafast broadband: What is it and why is it important?

13 Jun 2017
Ultrafast important engineer

Next-generation broadband is already here. We’re upgrading the UK’s broadband network from superfast (which is anything above 24Mbps) to Ultrafast (anything over 100Mbps). These speeds will transform how we use the internet, and make our lives a lot easier. Peter Bell, Director Network Portfolio and NGA Operations, tells us more.

Why is Openreach focusing on ultrafast technology?

Openreach has been deploying superfast technology over the last eight years. The UK has 92% coverage, with over 26 million lines. The speeds offered by superfast will meet most users’ for some time yet, but it’s important to prepare ourselves for the next phase of speed requirements. The broadband speeds people need is increasing by about 30-40% each year. That’s why we’ve started rolling out Ultrafast.

How does Ultrafast work?

There are two major technologies for Ultrafast: and fibre to the premise (FTTP). lets us get amazingly high speeds from the same copper pipe that was originally used for voice calls. To put it in perspective, in terms of speed, voice uses about 64kbits, while offers 330Mbits. With those speeds you could have a 4K TV running in every room of your house simultaneously.

We’re rolling out to 17 locations around the country, and we aim to have it in 10 million homes passed by 2020.

FTTP is an optical fibre almost as thin as a hair on your head that goes all the way to your home. In theory, that allows us to deliver unlimited speed to your premise. We have the largest FTTP network in the UK, but we’re not satisfied with that we have ambitions to grow this significantly. We aim to reach 2 million premises by 2020. We’ve been challenging ourselves on all aspects of the technology, changing our working practices, architecture and network components and and we’re confident we can do even more fibre to the premise.

Why use two technologies?

Because they complement each other very well. There are some locations where FTTP is the obvious choice, like new-build houses, flats and rural locations, whereas lets you get a quick footprint of Ultrafast, as it lets us reuse the copper.

What will people be able to do with Ultrafast broadband?

Everything we can dream of now and more besides. For example you could pick a film just before leaving the house, hit download, and it would be ready to watch on your phone or tablet almost immediately.

How important is it for the UK to be a pioneer in Ultrafast broadband?

We are the leading digital economy in the G20. Innovations like Ultrafast are creating huge wealth for the UK and many opportunities for careers that previously weren’t possible. Therefore I think it’s hugely important that we stay ahead.