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Vodafone UK Moots Building its Own Fibre Optic Broadband Network

Monday, August 1st, 2016 (12:08 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 3,388)
fibre_optic_blue_explosion

Newspaper reports claim that telecoms giant Vodafone, which only recently launched a range of its own fixed line broadband services using Openreach’s (BT) national ADSL2+ and FTTC network, could be planning to build their own fibre optic network in the United Kingdom to rival BT and Virgin Media.

Apparently “industry sources” told The Telegraph that Vodafone have been taking part in Openreach’s first trials of its new wholesale Duct and Pole Access (DPA) product, which is intended to help promote the large-scale roll-out of new “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) broadband services by opening up BT’s huge national network of telegraph poles and cable ducts for use by rivals.

The operator’s 6 week trial of DPA is allegedly being conducted in the town of King’s Lynn (Norfolk, England), although it’s understood to have faced some problems with “blocked ducts, costs and the availability of maps of BT’s ducts“. One of the other operator’s playing with DPA, Cityfibre, also claims to have suffered similar problems (here), although some of those were perhaps to be expected (Openreach has to deal with a lot of blocked ducts in its network).

Feedback from the tests will also play into Ofcom’s on-going Strategic Review (here and here), which has effectively proposed to all but split Openreach from BT Group’s control. The option of full separation is also still on the table, unless BT agrees to some major governance changes.

However so far Vodafone has not made any commitment to build its own network and we’re sceptical about whether they’d take the risk, particularly given Openreach and Virgin Media’s established foothold in the existing infrastructure market. Even if they did go ahead then it would perhaps be more likely to focus upon the low hanging fruit of urban areas.

A more plausible use might be to further expand their existing fibre optic network to more business customers, much of which was acquired via the Cable & Wireless Worldwide acquisition from a few years ago (here). This also gave Vodafone access to their own unbundled (LLU) network, which they use to supply ADSL2+ based broadband services to several UK ISPs.

In our view Vodafone’s best course of action would still be to do a deal with an established player like Virgin Media (Liberty Global), although this would be very complicated and past attempts to reach an agreement have failed.

On the other hand Vodafone is struggling to find a way forward in today’s market and they certainly have plenty of money to do something radical, if they really wanted.

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12 Responses
  1. FibreFred

    They have the money, let’s see what happens I’m sure we have been here before, joint venture?

  2. Matt

    Would be very good if Vodafone did start there own Fibre network even if only in Urban Areas proper competitor against Openreach/BT and Virgin. As has been said Vodafone actually has enough money for a network build and they have done in other European countries already.

  3. FibreFred

    My mistake I was thinking of this that Bob said was a sure bet

    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/04/13/fujitsu-and-major-uk-isps-to-deliver-new-superfast-broadband-to-5m-rural-homes.html?cpage=0

    If voda did go for it and wholesaled it would be very interesting

  4. Plankton 21

    They might consider finishing their mobile network before embarking on building another substandard network.

    • Matt

      There mobile network is actually pretty solid in urban areas and where the revamp has happened it’s just taking time like everything else to roll out to rural areas.

    • In Scotland if you want voice coverage outside of the big cities then Vodafone is noticeably better. Their 4G is getting there too, it goes surprisingly far north in some parts.

  5. brianv

    Perhaps Vodafone will collaborate with Google on its geostationary nano-satellite project to bring high speed internet to rural Britain? And maybe it can help in developing the driverless car, and doorstep parcel delivery by drone craft. And if funds permit, Vodafone could also become a partner with Elon Musk whose SpaceX team holes to get us back on the Moon again by 2025. So many opportunities for Vodafone.

  6. Darren

    Openreach need to be forced to push fibre deeper and to everyone. Multiple parralel networks is no good on so many levels and will still only properly serve the few.

    On the other hand if this is what’s needed to kick BT into action and get the high fibre diet we need then crack on Vodafone.

    • FibreFred

      Multiple networks work in other countries
      Other countries also suffer in providing for rural areas

  7. fastman

    Darren so 25m premises — think its now even more is only a few then ?

  8. I would also like to see Voda offer this infrastructure to other retail ISPs, telcos and businesses as a way to provide for infrastructure-level competition. This could also open up retail-level competition for high-speed Internet service, breaking the stranglehold that Openreach and Virgin Media have on the fixed-line infrastructure in most areas.

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