CityFibre Holdings Interview - Page 1 - UK ISPreview
CityFibre Holdings UK Interview
By: Mark Jackson - August 8th, 2011 : Page 1 -of- 4
"The main complaints during the original roll-out of the fibre to the home network in Bournemouth by i3 Group was communication and the substandard finish to the pavements"

uk fibre optic broadband development bournemouth ukcityfibre holdings ukCityFibre Holdings Ltd. is a UK focused Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure provider that specialises in deploying ultrafast fibre optic broadband services into urban areas. The company was founded in January 2011 after it acquired the extensive UK fibre optic assets of H2O Networks and Fibrecity from the i3 Group Limited (Earlestown Technology Limited), which collapsed following a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation of the projects financiers (Total Asset Finance).

The assets included more than 100 long term customer contracts with local authorities, the NHS, police and educational establishments, and one of the UK’s largest Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks in Bournemouth; passing more than 20,000 homes and businesses with internet service speeds of over 100Mbps (Megabits per second).

Unfortunately CityFibre, which is headed up by i3 Group's former President and COO, Greg Mesch, inherited a woefully incomplete fibre optic network in Bournemouth. It's now attempting to restart the development and put right what went wrong under the previous owners. ISPreview.co.uk spoke exclusively to the firms Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), Mark Collins, in an effort to find out more about its progress and what the future holds for CityFibre.

Interview

1. What are your thoughts on last year’s Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation into Total Asset Finance (TAF), which had appeared to be funding most of i3’s original Fibrecity project, and do you worry that the fallout from this could have an impact upon CityFibre’s efforts?

CityFibre (Mark Collins):

The SFO’s investigation into Total Asset Finance is a matter for the parties involved. CityFibre Holdings is not part of this investigation, but has acquired i3’s UK assets. At the point of acquisition we entered into a process of restructuring which included working with the banks that funded the original projects.

The acquisition of these valuable customer contracts, coupled with the extensive in-the-ground assets, forms the foundation for us to build a strong and well positioned telecoms business.

2. It’s often said that deploying a fibre optic network by digging up roads can be incredibly disruptive to local residents. The original Fibrecity project in Bournemouth caused a number of affected residents to complain about related pavement damage and obstructions, what has CityFibre done to address these concerns and to hopefully prevent them from reoccurring?

CityFibre (Mark Collins):

It’s really important to us that we address residents’ concerns. The main complaints during the original roll-out of the fibre to the home network in Bournemouth by i3 Group was communication and the substandard finish to the pavements following the micro-trenching which is the method the fibre is connected to each property.

Now that CityFibre owns this network, we have pledged to complete and make good the unfinished or substandard works we have inherited. We are pleased to confirm that we have addressed almost all these issues with the full support and approval of Bournemouth Borough Council. In addition, residents likely to be affected by any future works we carry out will be well informed and all roads and pavements disturbed will be reinstated to the highest standard.

Deploying vital infrastructure of any kind leads to significant disruption for local residents, but we believe that the long term benefits of a next generation fibre to the home network will outweigh the inconvenience caused by network construction. We believe that communication is very important and in addition all works scheduled in Bournemouth are being discussed and agreed with Bournemouth Borough Council in advance.

3. The original Fibrecity project often touted a patented FS System, which could cut costs by deploying fibre optic cables via underground sewers. Sadly a number of the key negotiations with water companies in the UK subsequently ran into problems. For example, Wessex Water complained that “the technology methodology didn’t work” for them and neither did the “reward for placing the cables” in their sewers. As a result Fibrecity was forced down the expensive route of digging up roads and pavements.

CityFibre (Mark Collins):

At face value, the concept of using the sewers to lay fibre optic cables seems like the perfect solution because the duct already exists which means there will be no roadworks as a result. The reality is that sewer deployment is best used to build the network backbone, but on a street by street basis, use of the sewers is too costly to break in and out of to remain a practical option. CityFibre will always prioritise low-disruption alternatives such as trenchless technologies where economically viable.

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