Salisbury could become the first city to have access to  new, future-proof Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology, and the fastest city-wide network in the UK.

Openreach‘s ‘Fibre First’ programme in Salisbury could be completed within a year, with fibre optic broadband cables joining the exchange directly to more than 20,000 premises in the city. Families, businesses and public buildings could reap the benefits of fast, reliable and future-proof broadband for decades to come, the technology company claims.

FTTP is a pure fibre connection –  from the exchange into the premise and offers speeds of up to 1Gbps, about 20 times faster than the UK average of 46.2Mbps.

Openreach is working to make sure the infrastructure is installed at an unrivalled pace with minimal disruption to residents, and with its new services ready to order throughout the city by April, 2020. The company is hiring 6,500 apprentice engineers during the next two years to support its ‘full fibre’ broadband build plans. It is currently looking for 3,000 new recruits, having filled 3,500 roles in 2018. Of the 6,500 total, 3,600 are net hires, having taken account of retirement.

Clive Selley, CEO at Openreach, said: “Salisbury has a unique and inspiring history – from its medieval sites to its thriving cultural sector, it’s an icon of our national heritage – and now we’re laying the foundations for an even more exciting future. The city will be a focal point of our ambition to future-proof the UK’s digital infrastructure and boost the country’s economic growth and productivity.

“For Salisbury’s homes, shops, GP surgeries and schools, it will mean fewer broadband faults, faster connections, and a consistent reliable network that will serve the city for decades to come. From home-working to healthcare, digital trade to entertainment, the possibilities a full fibre network can bring are almost limitless.

“This is the first location in the UK where we’re aiming to upgrade an entire city network in a single year, so it’s a hugely ambitious project. As a medieval city, Salisbury’s narrow streets won’t be the easiest for our engineers to access and work in, but we’re confident that it’s achievable thanks to the close partnership we’ve built with the Council and the unrivalled experience and skill of our engineering teams.”

Rich Lloyd, Blueflame Digital, Dylan Watkins, Poppy’s Picnic with John Glen MP, Openreach CEO Clive Selley and Cllr Pauline Church

Rich Lloyd, Director of game-based learning company Blueflame Digital said: “Having fibre connectivity will be a game changer.”

Salisbury-based British Shoe Company director John Carney Jnr said: “We are losing around two to three hours a day from a combination of the internet crashing and being extremely slowly. With improved connectivity, I believe our overall ability to compete both in the UK and around the world will be drastically improved.”

Fresh, raw pet food provider Poppy’s Picnic’s founder Dylan Watkins said: “As a young business, to stay competitive we need to give customers a high level of service, and fibre has propelled us forward.  In just three months, we’ve seen an increase in our customer satisfaction ratings and our team is much more motivated”.

Innovate Product Design, based in Salisbury, has 30 employees and satellite offices in London, Paris and San Francisco.  Managing Director, Alastair Swanwick said, “Full fibre will greatly improve communication tools, such as video conferencing, to accelerate the expansion of our business overseas.

Openreach is recruiting 3,000 new trainee engineers– including 24 new roles in Salisbury – to support its network plans, and Salisbury joins 25 other locations that make up the first phase of the multi-million pound ‘Fibre First’ programme, initially connecting three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020.

Openreach Engineer Nina Bussey

The business is also creating 12 new and upgraded regional training facilities for engineers, with two up-and-running already in Bradford and Peterborough. Many of these centres feature a unique ‘Open Street’ environment – a meticulously designed mock-up of a typical suburban street which gives recruits the opportunity to develop and enhance their skills in an authentic, immersive yet controlled environment.

Among the 12 facilities being built and upgraded are two training centres in Nursling and Swindon, which will receive £730,000 worth of investment in total. Nursling will benefit from its own ‘Open Street’, while two new classrooms and a specialised fibre training facility are planned for the centre in Swindon.

Openreach’s ambition is to build FTTP to around 10 million premises by the mid-2020s and ultimately to the majority of the UK under the right conditions. By the end of 2018, Openreach had made full fibre broadband technology available to around 900,000 homes and businesses nationwide.

To ensure the community is kept up-to-date on the project’s progress, Openreach will provide updates ahead of each Salisbury City Council meeting, with the first due to take place on Saturday, May 18.

The benefits of Openreach’s full fibre technology will also be a boost for Salisbury’s education, health and social care facilities.

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