Openreach: The Backbone of UK's Broadband Networks

Key Points:

  • Openreach is the UK's largest broadband network provider, with over 650 unique ISPs onboard.
  • To date, Openreach has successfully connected 20 million homes and businesses to the internet, more than 93% of the UK population.
  • If you're unhappy with your current ISP, you can easily switch to another provider using Openreach's infrastructure.
  • Openreach delivers broadband services to the UK using copper, fibre-to-the-premises and fibre-to-the-cabinet technologies.

There is a good chance you have spotted an Openreach van parked near your home. Or a group of workers wearing an Openreach jacket repairing wires, poles, and cabinets. They're everywhere, but who are they, and what do they do?

Broadband has become an essential part of modern life; nowhere is this more evident than in the United Kingdom. A whopping 94% of the population uses the internet for work and entertainment. Getting high-speed internet to homes was not an easy task. And all of this was possible because broadband providers like Openreach put in a lot of effort to make it easy and affordable for people to connect and install their infrastructure. Today, this company provides broadband services to over 20 million homes and businesses across the UK, making it the largest broadband provider worldwide.

Openreach is vital to the UK's digital infrastructure, from design and construction to maintaining and upgrading the network. This article looks at everything you need to know about Openreach, from its history to its future. So whether you want to understand how the UK's broadband network works or just want to know more about one of its key players, read on!

What is Openreach?

Openreach is the communications arm of the BT Group, one of the largest providers of telecom services in Europe. Think of Openreach as a well-built highway that allows automobiles to move from one location to another by paying a road tax. In this scenario, the automobiles represent the various ISPs, and the tax is the amount paid by the ISPs to utilise the Openreach network.

While Openreach is not an ISP, it is in charge of installing, maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure (cables, poles, and cabinets) that ISPs use to provide high-speed internet. The company looks after the landline-based broadband infrastructure in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

In addition to its core infrastructure duties, Openreach also handles two major government-funded programmes: Universal Service Obligation (USO) and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). USO is a public fund that helps support broadband connections for everyone in Britain who needs them; BDUK is designed to help rural areas connect to high-speed internet services.

Have you ever seen a green cabinet by the sidewalk with a sign that says "fibre broadband is here" and wondered what it is? These cabinets are owned by Openreach and are used to link your local telephone exchange with ultrafast fibre optic lines. Openreach is on a mission to enable everyone in the UK to access high-quality broadband.

By 2026, the firm hopes to have high-speed fibre internet in most households and businesses. To deliver this network infrastructure and service level promise, Openreach employs a wide range of skilled employees. These include:

  • Chief engineers: They are in charge of everything from setting standards, procedures, and policies to implementing new technical solutions.
  • Service delivery engineers: These 18,000 engineers look after the day-to-day running of Openreach's network. They ensure that all copper cables, poles and cabinets are properly installed and maintained.
  • Fibre network technicians: These technicians aim to deliver high-speed internet to your home. They collaborate with telecoms to build and maintain the UK's fibre network.

Openreach has a wide range of customers (ISPs) who use its services to sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses. BT, Sky, TalkTalk, and Plusnet are just a few that use the Openreach infrastructure to connect companies and households to the internet. So If your broadband connection is supplied over a telephone line, you are most likely using the Openreach network.

How the UK communications provider began its journey

Openreach traces its roots back to the early days of telecommunications when the state-owned monopoly British Telecom (BT) was tasked with building and maintaining a nationwide telephone network. BT was the initial operator of the network. However, there was a perception that faults were being rectified more slowly for other broadband providers utilising BT's network, which harmed competition.

In 2006, Ofcom (Britain's communications regulator) felt the need for a new fair organisation to maintain and enhance the UK's broadband and telecommunications networks. Thus, Openreach was established with the straightforward goal of selling services and products to communications providers while also developing and maintaining the nation's phone and broadband network, which consists of the pipes and cables that link it.

In its early years, Openreach concentrated on expanding the existing network. The company in the year 2008 launched its first fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network in a small part of the UK. With FTTP, users could achieve download speeds of up to 100 Mbps, which were the fastest. Afterwards, Openreach introduced its fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) network in Muswell Hill and North London in 2009. This enabled customers to achieve download rates of roughly 40 Mb.

By the end of 2010, the firm could connect more than half of the UK's population without internet access. This was only achievable because of the ADSL2+ network that they built. It was sluggish, with rates of around 20Mbps, but it kept everyone connected.

Under pressure from MPs and BT's competitors, Openreach was spun off as an independent firm in 2017. Instead of having BT sell off the company's network, the British lawmakers opted to keep it as a subsidiary of BT. Because there were too many complications with employee pensions and other long-term duties and agreements.

Following this triumph, Openreach has concentrated on expanding the fibre network, which gives the fastest overall speeds and hence a more significant customer base than earlier connections. In 2019, the company stated that it will fibre the whole city of Salisbury in what is likely to be the quickest city-wide network deployment in the UK.

The goal of Openreach is to keep pushing and build a future-proof network which is UK's rock-solid digital platform for decades to come. The company has invested over 315 billion into their super fast and reliable network, which spans over 190 kilometres - enough to wrap around the earth 4,798 times. Today, it employs over 35,000 people across its operations in the UK, which includes approximately 2,000 engineers and technicians who work on maintaining the nation's telecom infrastructure.

How does the Openreach broadband network work?

If you have a broadband connection, you are probably aware that the critical component allows you to transmit and receive data over the internet. Openreach uses various technologies to offer ISPs a stable and uninterrupted internet infrastructure for their consumers.

There are 4 leading technologies that Openreach uses:

  • Ultrafast full fibre: This technology can deliver download rates of up to 1 Gbps to your house. But that's not all; it can accommodate up to 100 devices while providing lightning-fast internet. It is also referred to as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). Ultrafast full fibre technology mainly exchanges data over fibre optic lines. It is the quickest way to transport data in today's internet age.
  • Superfast: It is also known as fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). Superfast broadband uses a combination of fibre cables to the green cabinets and copper cables to your home for online data exchange. You can get up to 80 Mbps and easily accommodate up to 8 devices.
  • Gfast: ISPs that use Openreach's Gfast broadband network can offer active subscribers a turbocharged version of Superfast with speeds of up to 330Mbps. This network combines copper and fibre cables (fibre-to-the-cabinet) to increase internet speed by up to four times.
  • Copper: This is Openreach's standard technology that uses copper wires to connect over 90% of the UK's population to the internet. It is also known as ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line). Download speeds are lower than 24 Mbps, and only three devices may be handled simultaneously.

Openreach is constantly upgrading its broadband technology to provide faster speeds and more reliable connections. If you reside in a region that does not yet have the technology, it will most likely arrive in the next few years.

What are the benefits of using Openreach internet?

Getting on Openreach has many perks. For one, it is the largest broadband network provider in the UK, with over 650 service providers to pick from based on your requirements. It is also the only company that offers full-fibre connections to everyone in the UK. That means you're guaranteed a lightning-fast internet connection no matter where you are in the country.

Plus, Openreach has a sterling reputation for customer service and will work hard to keep your connection running smoothly so that you can get on with using the internet as it should be for entertainment, work and connecting with friends and family.

But the icing on the cake is that the installation process and switch from one Openreach provider to another is much more straightforward than with other technologies. This means you do not require additional equipment and can enjoy high-speed internet faster!

If you are unsure which broadband providers are available in your area, you can use our tool to find out. All you have to do is input your postcode to see the lowest prices in your area.

Openreach alternatives

Many people in the UK use Openreach because it is widely available and operated by many major ISPs. However, alternative solutions are available if you can't acquire an Openreach network connection for any apparent reason.

  • 4G/5G mobile internet: It is an excellent option for people who don't want to sacrifice speed or live in rural areas without access to an ultrafast broadband connection. Mobile operators offer a variety of packages with different speeds and data allowances, so you're guaranteed to find one that suits your needs.
  • Virgin Media: Virgin Media may be your best bet if you're looking for an ISP with reliable customer service and uncompromising speeds. The plans are a little pricey, but you receive internet speeds that are ten times faster than companies that use Openreach.
  • Hyperoptic: Hyperoptic is a broadband provider that uses fibre technology to connect consumers in central London.
  • Gigaclear: Another network like Hyperoptic is Gigaclear. It is a broadband provider specialising in connecting businesses and households in rural areas of the UK.
  • Satellite broadband: If you live in an area that is not yet covered by Openreach, or 4G/5G mobile connectivity, satellite broadband may be your answer. The internet speeds, however, may not be as high as fibre as it takes time for data to travel to and from your computer via a satellite dish.

These alternatives are viable options if you don't have access to an ultrafast broadband connection or live in a rural area. However, they are all more expensive than using Openreach, so comparing rates and types of packages is essential before making a decision.


The Openreach backbone is one of the most crucial parts of rolling out and expanding broadband infrastructure that provides high-speed internet services to consumers. From establishing optical fibre networks to getting new ISPs on board, Openreach has been at the forefront of all these activities.

But with so many ISPs, it isn't easy to determine which one will have the best plan for you. Leave that to us! At BroadbandUK, we have developed a tool that compares the most affordable broadband deals and provides information about the best broadband solutions and prices in your area. You can access all plans of Openreach brand providers under one roof and choose the ones that suit you the best.


What is Openreach?

Openreach is a wholly owned subsidiary of BT Group. They are in charge of installing, maintaining, and repairing copper and fibre cables that connect homes and businesses to phone and broadband. Openreach has over 650 ISPs in the UK that sell internet and phone services to schools, libraries, workplaces, and residences.

Are Openreach and BT the same?

In 2017, Openreach separated from BT to establish a new firm with its own strategy and board of directors. To avoid problems in pensions and agreements, the newly established firm was deemed a subsidiary of BT plc.

How does Openreach make money?

Openreach builds the infrastructure, which includes poles, copper and fibre cables, and other components required for a broadband connection. ISPs purchase access to this infrastructure to provide public internet. Openreach also sells its maintenance and repair services to ISPs.

What is Openreach doing in my area?

Openreach instals and maintains the network for ISPs. They construct the physical connections that carry broadband into your house, whilst ISPs provide the broadband bundles.

Which ISPs use Openreach?

Over 600 internet service providers use the Openreach network to supply internet services to the public. A few big names include Vodafone, BT, Sky and Talk Talk.

How long does Openreach take to install a new line?

An Openreach engineer will first come to inspect your home. An adult over 18 will need to be home for the appointment time. The entire process may take over 2 hours.

How many customers does Openreach have?

Openreach has provided internet access to over 27 million homes in the United Kingdom. Out of these, 9.2 million fibre broadband users. The network is used by nearly 600 communication providers.