By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

Openreach has launched a new trial to connect 13 rural communities across the UK with faster and more reliable fibre broadband.

The BT-owned firm - which maintains the telephone cables, ducts, cabinets and exchanges around the country - said it is trialling new tools to improve its ability to connect customers in "challenging" rural areas.

Openreach engineers will be deploying full fibre upgrades to 50,000 homes and businesses in 13 villages and market towns across the UK.

The programme will take place in: Cranfield; West Calder; Flockton; Hesketh Bank; Kentford; Lingfield; Lundin Links; Mickle Trafford; Okehampton; Ottery St Mary; Parbold; Seal; and Tarporley.

Some customers have already been connected and the first homes in other pilot locations should be able to order full fibre services for the end of 2019, Openreach said.

Building work for just over half the customers across all the pilot sites is expected by the end of March 2020.

The broadband installer said that if the pilots prove successful, it could pave the way for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in less accessible and expensive locations to become eligible for full fibre.

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said: "At Openreach, we'll never be just a city fibre provider.

"We've always worked hard to improve connections to isolated, less commercially attractive communities through inventive engineering and effective funding partnership models.

"In recent years we've been extending our full fibre network into rural areas - mostly in partnership with local authorities and Government - but the economics are clearly challenging and we want to do more."

Openreach said it will use new cost-busting tools, such as specialist digging equipment, which will allow the firm to install 700 metres of cable each day.

The company said it is on track to roll out full fibre broadband connectivity to four million homes and businesses by the end of March 2021.

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