More than 100,000 homes and businesses across the North of Tyne can now order some of the fastest, most reliable broadband in Europe thanks to a multi-million investment by Openreach. But there are concerns that thousands of residents and businesses could be missing out on reaping the benefits.

The company has spent more than £30 million[1] so far to build a new ultrafast, ultra-reliable ‘full fibre’ network, which is up to ten times faster than the average UK broadband connection and around five times more reliable than the old copper-based network it’s replacing.

But thousands of residents and businesses have yet to upgrade in places such as Alnmouth, Blyth, Benton, Gosforth, Newcastle and Whitey Bay – where on average less than 20 per cent of those who can are using full fibre, lagging behind the UK average and other local communities such as Amble, Hartburn, Killingworth, North Shields and Wallsend – where around 50% or more have taken up service.

Councillor Nick Kemp outside Newcastle Civic Centre building

Cllr Nick Kemp, North of Tyne Combined Authority Cabinet Member for Jobs Innovation and Growth and Leader of Newcastle City Council

Cllr Nick Kemp, North of Tyne Combined Authority Cabinet Member for Jobs Innovation and Growth and Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “The Full Fibre project is part of our Green Industrial Revolution. We have one of the fastest-growing technology sectors outside the capital, and the rollout of full fibre internet to our more rural regions will help more communities within the North of Tyne area benefit from that. Full Fibre increases the internet bandwidth to our rural communities by a factor of 50.  If you don’t have it yet, it’s well worth checking whether you can upgrade.”

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s Partnership Director for the North East, said: “Research shows that this new network will give businesses an edge as they fight back from the pandemic and give families and home-workers future-proof connectivity, no matter what life throws at us next. Following our earlier work in partnership with local authorities right across the North East region, our commercial investment across the region continues at pace, and we’re determined to deliver a great service which helps communities to thrive and supports people to work from home easily, keep in touch with their loved ones and build connections and opportunities.

“Gigabit-capable broadband can have a huge impact on people’s lives and it’s great for the economy but upgrades aren’t automatic. People need to place an order with their chosen providers to get connected and we’ll do the rest. Our network offers the widest choice of providers such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and Zen – which means people have lots of choice and can get a great deal. Even if you already have a decent enough service it’s worth checking if you can upgrade, because full fibre is the future, and it provides the best broadband experience at great value for money. There’ll be no more worrying that your video call freezing, or your files are failing to upload when everyone’s at home competing for bandwidth at the same time.”

A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) shows that connecting everyone in the North East to ‘full fibre’ broadband would create a £1.7 billion boost to the local economy, by unlocking smarter ways of working, better public services and greater opportunities for the next-generation of home-grown businesses.

Openreach has announced plans to invest in full fibre broadband for the majority of premises in dozens of exchange areas across the North East including around 90 as part of the company’s plans to reach 25 million UK homes and businesses by 2026. This short video explains what full fibre technology is and you can find out more about Openreach Fibre First build programme here.

[1] Investment figure based on an average build cost of £300 per premises