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UPDATE2 Sky, TalkTalk and CityFibre to Launch 1Gbps FTTP Broadband in York

Tuesday, Apr 15th, 2014 (7:58 am) - Score 3,992
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In a major development two of the United Kingdom’s largest ISPs, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband (BSkyB), have “joined forces” with fibre optic infrastructure developer CityFibre to expand its existing Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network in the City of York (England) by launching a 1000Mbps capable “ultra-fast” broadband service to thousands of local homes.

Under the new plan the three operators would, as part of a Joint Venture, create a new company and begin building a “state of the art, city-wide, pure fibre-to-the-premise network“. The new network would ultimately aim to serve “tens of thousands of homes and businesses” in York, with the first customers expected to be connected in 2015 via packages from both Sky Broadband and TalkTalk.

The new setup would make use of CityFibre’s existing 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) capable and 103km long fibre optic ring network in the city (The York Core), although it would also employ Fujitsu UK to help expand the network into thousands of additional local premises.

Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk Group, said:

TalkTalk has a long history and proven track record of disrupting new markets, and this is the next step in that journey. We are excited to be working in partnership with Sky and CityFibre to build this new network that will offer significantly higher speeds at much better value than is currently available. This marks TalkTalk taking its first steps into investing in building infrastructure as part of our mission to make British homes and businesses better off.”

Stephen van Rooyen, MD of Sky Sales, Marketing and Brand, said:

Increased competition in the broadband market has brought benefits to millions of households who now enjoy better quality and value of service. Sky has led the growth of the sector since the launch of Sky Broadband, becoming the UK’s favourite provider of TV, broadband and home phone, and we see plenty of opportunity to continue to develop our offering. This trial will help us understand the potential for cutting-edge technology to help us give customers an even better quality of service and we’re looking forward to working in partnership with TalkTalk and CityFibre.”

Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said:

As a business that believes in the transformative potential of pure fibre infrastructure and gigabit speeds to stimulate growth and innovation this partnership is great news for UK plc. Working with two of the largest and most forward-thinking service providers in the UK we will continue to extend our existing metro fibre infrastructure and introduce a new generation of gigabit speed services to homes and businesses.”

Until recently CityFibre’s existing infrastructure has been hobbled by a lack of support from major ISPs but this now appears to be changing and could pose a significant challenge to BT, which might force them to adapt and install their own FTTP infrastructure in order to compete. But first BT would need to see a sharp loss of customers to the new platform and as yet this still has somewhat the appearance of an experiment, albeit a bold and impressive one, on the part of Sky Broadband and TalkTalk.

It’s also worth pointing out that Fujitsu UK had until early last year been BT’s only real competition for the Government’s national Broadband Delivery UK contracts, although their joint plans to build a rival Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network with Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Cisco didn’t survive and the company ultimately withdrew (here). At the time Fujitsu, which had also come under pressure from an alleged blacklisting of their services from Government IT contracts (here), struggled to make the economics for such a platform work.

In a not dissimilar way CityFibre has also struggled to sell FTTH services into Bournemouth homes, where competing superfast broadband products from BT and Virgin Media have tended to dominate (especially in terms of advertising). Since then those issues, combined with the lack of major ISP support, have meant CityFibre has tended to focus more on serving the public sector and businesses. But now all that could be changing.

However there are still many unknowns with this new deal, such as how much investment is being made to deliver the service (crucial to understand how the economics will work) and their precise coverage plans. Similarly the ISPs will probably offer separate packages for their FTTP products in York, which must be handled carefully so as to avoid confusing consumers. Apparently more details are expected to follow “in due course“.

In the meantime the partners appear to be viewing this roll-out as an “opportunity to fully test a new cost effective approach to building a viable pure fibre network“, which is also independent from BT Openreach’s infrastructure. If successful we could see them deploying into other cities, such as Bournemouth where CityFibre already has some infrastructure or perhaps Peterborough where they’re about to build another (here).

Indeed the announcement does hint at plans for bringing “ultra-fast broadband to two further cities across the UK“, with more details about the selection of the cities expected to be released in due course. As an experiment we hope it succeeds, although equally it could fail and that might risk damaging any ambitions to adopt true fibre optic (FTTH/P) infrastructure in the near future.

Funnily enough BT has frequently moaned at TalkTalk and Sky Broadband for complaining too much about their/Openreach’s infrastructure, competition and prices instead of going off to build their own. Well now it looks like the big ISPs have had enough and decided to do just that.

UPDATE 9am

After a bit of digging we’ve managed to learn that ownership of the joint venture does indeed split three ways, with Sky and TalkTalk both putting £5 million into the roll-out (CityFibre’s contribution is through their existing network / assets). Apparently none of BTOpenreach’s infrastructure will be used (i.e. no use of their cable ducts via PIA). The new network will thus remain entirely separate, with micro-trenching being part of the process to help build it.

It’s understood that the initial roll-out will also aim to reach about 20,000 homes.

UPDATE 12:35pm

BT has sent us the following statement.

A Spokesperson for BT told ISPreview.co.uk:

I welcome the competition. The UK is already ahead of France, Germany, Spain and Italy when it comes to fibre and demand is growing rapidly. In fact, today’s report from Ofcom shows that speeds have increased 48 per cent in the past year alone.

Openreach’s fibre network covers more than 18 million premises and is open to all companies on equal and competitive terms. Customers and business are already benefiting from our high internet speeds and low prices.

Openreach already offers Fibre To The Premises in parts of York. This means that customers and businesses in the City will have even more choice which can only be a good thing. We will continue to respond to our customers evolving needs.”

Sadly BT generally doesn’t release any practical figures for FTTP coverage in York or indeed elsewhere around the country.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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