G.fast Broadband Gets Commercial UK Launch by Openreach

Openreach (BT) has announced that their G.fast “ultrafast broadband” ISP technology, which is capable of offering download speeds up to 330Mbps (50Mbps upload), is to finally get a full commercial launch on 1st April 2020. But its coverage seems unlikely to improve much.

Given the wide availability of G.fast among ISPs, including major providers like BT, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk, it may surprise some people to learn that the technology has been sat in the Early Market Deployment (EMD) phase for years. This means that ISPs can sell related products to consumers but they do so in the knowledge that the new service could still be subject to change.

The hybrid fibre G.fast network currently covers 2,725,000 UK premises, although it remains unclear whether it will be extended much beyond this point because further deployments were placed under review last year (here); due in no small part to the greater focus on Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology as the more future proof broadband solution.

Under the original plan Openreach had intended to push G.fast out to cover 10 million UK premises by March 2021 (financial), but the change to focus on “full fibre” resulted in this target shrinking to 5.7 million premises in 2018 (here). During autumn last year the roll-out target was then reduced once again to 2.73 million, which was set for March 2020 (here).

The irony of commercially launching a seemingly stalled technology on April Fool’s day has thus not been lost, although so far as we (and various ISPs) are aware the fate of G.fast has yet to be fully clarified by Openreach (we did ask yesterday but were told to expect an update at the end of this month). In the meantime Openreach’s final wholesale pricing for their commercial launch is unchanged from the most recent EMD pricing (here and here).

We strongly suspect that some G.fast may continue to be deployed going forward, albeit in a much more limited and targeted way. Otherwise the main focus for the future remains firmly on FTTP, which is expected to cover 4 million premises by March 2021 and then potentially 15 million by around 2025.

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