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Interview – CityFibre Talk 1Gb FTTP Rollout with Sky Broadband and TalkTalk

Monday, June 9th, 2014 (1:25 am) - Score 4,660

Q4. CityFibre’s similar network in Bournemouth has struggled to be adopted, which appears to show that ISPs need to offer more than ultrafast speeds in order to compete effectively with established cable/FTTC networks (we note that BT also has a little FTTP in York).

How will the service in York differentiate itself and overcome the problem of low uptake in an already competitive Next Generation Access (NGA) market area, especially considering that York – like Bournemouth – also has strong availability of rival cable and FTTC networks?

ANSWER:

In Bournemouth, CityFibre’s ISP service, Gigler, was established to showcase the benefits of fibre Gigabit to the home. CityFibre’s intention has been to work with larger ISPs in the UK and as such we’re delighted to be part of this joint venture with TalkTalk and Sky.

We’re confident that given the array of expertise possessed by all partners and the fact the FTTH infrastructure platform is cutting edge, will mean that the Gigabit speeds rolled out in York will be amongst the best in the world. Sky and TalkTalk together already serve 45% of all broadband customers in York, and we believe these customers will migrate to the superior platform quickly.

There will of course be further service propositions incorporated into the network that will be announced in due course.

Q5. The current “city-wide” roll-out plan for York talks about a commitment of £5m each from Sky and TalkTalk. However the initial phase has so far only stated an expectation to reach 20,000 (premises passed) properties in 2015, although York is home to more than 80,000 premises in total.

Does the current investment cover the full “city-wide” deployment or will more be needed in order to achieve that and is there any rough timescale for how long it might take to reach all 80,000?

ANSWER:

The initial investment of £5 million each from Sky and TalkTalk is for the first rollout of network services to homes in York. There will be second phase of investment to extend this rollout to further premises’ in the city, which will be announced in due course.

Q6. The announcement said that another two cities are likely to see a deployment (we’re guessing existing CityFibre network areas like Bournemouth and Peterborough). But when and how will you make the decision about where to go next, if anywhere (we assume the plan would not be expanded unless York is successful)? Is there a specific uptake target etc?

ANSWER:

The model we are adopting mirrors the roll out of similar high speed, fibre optic services in the US by Google. That plan started with one city, subsequently expanded to three cities and Google recently announced plans to engage with over 30 more cities. We believe a similar approach can be adopted in the UK.

York is the first city in our master plan and our initial intention is to expand to a further two more in the short term. The selection of these next two cities will be based on on-going engagement with local authorities and most importantly the enthusiasm they show to be part of our plans. Further details, including the steps we are taking in making this selection will be shared in due course.

Q7. If a customer wants to take the new service, roughly what will it cost to install and what would be involved in that process (will their garden or drive-way need to be dug up etc.)?

ANSWER:

Customers who want to take advantage of these ultra-fast Gigabit speeds will require the installation of a state of the art fibre connection directly to their premises.

Service propositions from both TalkTalk and Sky will be ultimately competing against each other and the details of each offering will be announced later in the year.

Despite the fact York’s new network will deliver a huge step change in in broadband capability, we expect both TalkTalk and Sky’s offerings to be highly competitive prices that are very attractive to end users.

Q8. Many modern broadband routers would struggle to deliver the top speed of 1Gbps reliably, not least due to inferior wifi performance. Even some of the best 802.11ac kit struggles when you actually ask it to do 1Gbps. Can you tell us anything about the hardware you expect to use in order to overcome this?

ANSWER:

We are building fit for purpose fibre infrastructures that not only cater for today’s bandwidth needs but also support the exponential growth of data usage. Looking at the rapid technological evolution that the world is experiencing – from smartphones to televisions and beyond – there will be a need for gigabit connectivity and the access technologies such as gigabit Wi-Fi will quickly catch up. The deployment of this end-to-end fibre network will be delivered over an 18 to 24 month period. we’re confident that by the time this network is complete there will be adequate modem and router technology available to support it.

Q9. Can you reveal any-more about the staging of the planned roll-out? In other words, can you give us any idea of which areas in York will be the first to benefit and which will be the last as part of the first 20,000 premises?

ANSWER:

Planning for network construction is currently underway and the precise roll out schedule will be determined as a result. All parties will work closely with the community to gauge the enthusiasm of York’s community to ensure we maximise the benefits that this transformational infrastructure deployment will bring. We will continue to provide updates as our planning process evolves.

Q10. Finally, TalkTalk’s CEO, Dido Harding, recently spoke of her aspiration to push the FTTP/H network out to 10 million homes across the United Kingdom. At present the ISPs balance sheet might struggle to afford this, although over a 10-15 year period it could be viable (depending upon uptake).

However some suggest that it could be premature to speak of such things before the York deployment has been proven. So is this likely to become a real commitment or just something intended to ruffle Ofcom and BT’s feathers in the hope of securing a more favourable regulation of FTTC?

ANSWER:

Given this deployment in York is the first by this joint venture it is in many ways a trial process with particular emphasis on testing and implementing scalability. Once our success in York has been measured, there is no doubt that the experience gained in the city will be past on to other cities, as we have previously made clear.

Sky, TalkTalk and CityFibre are truly dedicated to being at the heart of connecting regional Britain and this is simply the first step on that journey, and all three organisations are in pristine financial health. Sky and TalkTalk have strong cash flows from their combined nine million broadband customers that can underpin long-term infrastructure financing, meaning that an FTTP/H infrastructure can be rolled out with minimal impact to their balance sheets.

From a regulatory point of view, it is important that Ofcom supports a competitive market that delivers private investment in our broadband networks. Digital infrastructure competition will bring rewarding long terms benefits to the UK, and Ofcom must enable a regulatory environment to achieve this.

End.

ISPreview.co.uk would just like to thank Mark Collins for being kind enough to engage with our questions and for offering some useful insights into the project. Developments like this, if successful, have the potential to shake-up the market and give BT some real competition at the critical infrastructure level, but such changes won’t happen overnight and usually form part of a much longer-term strategy that will ultimately be dependent upon uptake.

Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    Thanks for the interview.

    This was the correct approach for BDUK. A project combining multiple players investing a stake in a brand new network, creating competition which then naturally drives improvements without the need for endlessly ongoing taxpayer bungs to BT.

    Believe I’ve said this, oh, perhaps a hundred times over the last few years 😉

    Sadly, they didn’t take it, and BDUK – in this context – is the barrier to building competitive and even faintly future-proof networks like this one.

    While the investment here probably isn’t great shakes to the likes of Talk Talk and Sky who are going to very much enjoy migrating customers away from the GPO/BT network and putting two fingers up at BT – the BDUK program is such a serious impediment to projects like this – and I think they’re a little mad to challenge the State telephony network like this – I very much welcome this and wish them every success.

    Very well done for putting together something similar to that which I’d suggested for a long time, it’s really good to see it happen.

    1. Avatar Phil says:

      Sky should have buy out BT and get 100% fibre to the houses all over UK.

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      Very true. I have already seen areas where deployment of nextgen telecom services has actually been prevented because of the BDUK.

    3. Avatar bob says:

      The big problem is BT’s stranglehold on the local loop. It is a very big risk to take on the incumbent operator who outside of the cabled areas controls pretty much a 100% of the market. Removing the local loop from BT control is the only way we will see real competition anytime soon

  2. Avatar X66yh says:

    Yeah, just a long time ago the cable companies promised to cable up the UK.
    They cherry picked the best bits – promptly went bust due the costs and the rest of the UK was abandoned.

    Anyway,
    Do we have have these throwaway comments to EVERY SINGLE article on here about how X should get on with it and put in 100% FTTP while never mentioning the cost.
    Might as well tell someone with a few slipped tiles to totally re-roof the house and then listen to their reply – unprintable

    Come to think about about it when are we going to have gas supply to all of the UK villages?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      At least with Gas you can buy your own tanks and refill to run the boiler 🙂

    2. Avatar DTMark says:

      Cost was the theme of my post.

      “multiple players”

      “without the need for endlessly ongoing taxpayer bungs to BT.”

  3. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Shame Question 1 wasn’t answered 🙂

    I would have liked to know the answer to that one!

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      “Micro-trenching”. New ducting.

      This is an area where BT overcooked it and talked themselves out of the ‘market’ by claiming it necessarily takes seven hours to attach one house to a network.

      I suppose if you’re hell-bent on shoving cable down blocked 40 year old ducting then you will have this problem. The reply hints at this.

      Other people can do it, but for whatever reason, BT simply cannot. Bit of a shame as BT might have been of some use in the medium to longer term after the bodge job on the phone network to make it last a bit longer is completed.

      Now what the government needs to do is to turn the “fibre tax” into a reverse tax e.g. the provider gets a reward not a charge for laying fibre, get the LAs on board to help organise and support this where necessary, and generally “get out of the way” – become part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      I cannot believe just because they use micro trenching it will be cheaper

    3. Avatar DTMark says:

      I think CityFibre will have to deliver on this one to have a future.

      They appear to have earmarked specific areas which they think they can do. I’ve never laid ducting myself but I can’t honestly see how it can take a particularly long time to run round streets and estates cutting ducting in. Homes only need be connected when they sign up, what’s that, half an hour or so to run the fibre (similar to cable), with some exceptions like very long drives.

      Will they manage it, and will then they seamlessly flow onwards to complete coverage of most or all of the city…? How will they price the installation charge given they’ve picked – again – areas with potential competition where this might be a greater issue? We shall see.

    4. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      I would imagine that it depends.

      You are FibreFred, in cases where 2 FTTC cabinets are needed along with all the civils, etc, and ducting is already in place to each property would it be cheaper to build the 2 cabinets or to deploy FTTP?

      If you’re BT FTTP doesn’t even enter into the equation.

    5. Avatar DTMark says:

      .. hence the need for competition.

      Cost of provision is one thing, but if the ROI is very low due to poor take-up and even more than that, you don’t just lose the broadband but also the line rental customer, you have an incentive (now, and looking ahead) which is currently missing.

  4. Avatar TheFacts says:

    Basically abandon Bournemouth.

  5. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    ‘TalkTalk Group will also build and manage the billing provisioning and assurance systems that will enable customers to connect to the network. Sky meanwhile will be predominantly focussed on selling a range of competing ultrafast services to their residential customers.’

    Fascinating. This seems to imply that CityFibre own and operate the infrastructure, TalkTalk Wholesale handle, well, the wholesale aspect and Sky will, alongside TalkTalk, retail products on the network.

    With TTWholesale involved anyone purchasing from them will also be able to deliver services, so AAISP, Uno, etc.

    Sweet.

  6. Avatar britain a place not to live says:

    well this be a good one I doubt all talk and sky will be any good with 1000mbps when there fibre is a shambles but I will see more complaints arriving when this happends fibre isn’t much better than adsl and suppose to be five times faster where at ?

  7. Avatar friv 5 says:

    With what can be provided to those who need and I believe that your website is good.

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