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British Fibre Networks Target 1Gbps Fibre for 35% of New UK Homes

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 (5:28 pm) - Score 2,646
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An interesting new alternative network has launched today called British Fibre Networks, which aims to build a new open access and 1Gbps capable pure fibre optic broadband service (FTTP/H) for over 35% of new build homes by 2021. The ISP is headed by the former CEO of the controversial i3 Group.

At this point readers might recall that the i3 Group, alongside its subsidiary H20 Networks, was initially one of the first operators in the United Kingdom to pioneer modern urban fibre optic networks. The operator did manage to build some networks around cities, such as Bournemouth and Dundee, albeit with mixed success (contractor disputes, shoddy street works etc.).

Unfortunately all that came to an end sometime ago after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) revealed criminal activity, which last year resulted in four men being found guilty of a £160 million financing fraud and sentenced to a total of 44 years in jail (here). Happily the founder and CEO of i3 Group, Elfed Thomas, was found not guilty and exonerated from all charges.

Since then Elfed has been busy putting together his new business venture, which he hopes will capture a slice of the United Kingdom’s growing market for ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) networks. Lately a huge amount of investment has been going towards such deployments, fostered both by enhanced regulatory support via Ofcom’s changes and financial support from the Government etc.

Elfed Thomas told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Clearly there are a number of well financed ISP entrants into the market. We ensure new homes have the fibre infrastructure which can connect with this growing choice of fibre networks. Choice and capacity to the customer is vital for a competitive platform. For too long, new homeowners and builders have been subject to a monopolistic offer, which is overpriced and never installed in time for when the customer moves in.

British Fibre Networks aims to address this and create a model that breaks up the monopoly of BT. Working with developers, we will deliver superior connectivity and choice to new homeowners, many of whom have previously been quoted extortionate prices for access to a patchwork copper/fibre network. It will add value for house builders, who can now offer a home with pure fibre connectivity and choice.”

As Elfed hints above, there are already quite a few “full fibre” operators, other than Openreach (BT), that work with new build developments (e.g. IFNL / GTC / BUUK, Hyperoptic, Virgin Media etc.) and some, like Independent Fibre Networks Limited, also offer this as an open access solution via several ISPs.

No doubt Vodafone and Cityfibre (they purchased i3/H2O’s legacy network assets after it went under) may also look to target this part of the market when their joint deployment gets underway. Suffice to say that Elfed’s BFN will face plenty of competition, although the operator is confident that their combination of “speed, capacity and choice will make it a compelling alternative for house builders and homeowners alike.”

On top of that British Fibre Networks is currently said to be in discussions with a “leading price comparison site“, which they say will provide a unique platform to manage and offer the choice of ISP to customers. However before that they’ll actually need to build some networks and sadly the press release doesn’t offer any information on package details or initial roll-out locations. The issue of funding is another big unknown.

At this stage it’s too early to judge whether BFN’s aspiration toward connecting pure fibre to over 35% of new homes by 2021 is even remotely viable, although that part of the market is much smaller and easier to deploy into than existing properties, where the cost of building can be significantly higher. It’s always easier to put fibre into the ground if you can do it before the houses and tarmac go on top.

Side Note: The press release claims that the UK average broadband speed is 16.51Mbps, which is well below even Ofcom’s estimate of 36.2Mbps from last year (here). After a bit of checking we believe that this figure was extracted from M-Labs data (here), which is a study that was based on speedtests rather than actual network availability (in the UK this will be impacted by the wide use of slow ADSL lines and WiFi etc.).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. Moses Jonson

    I fully agree BT should be penalized every time they do not deliver

    • Fastman

      so I assume you are on a new development where developer asked for voice only services from openreach and you have a nice new green box and no fibre cabinet – !!!! or the developer did not sign a fbre contract in it — or openreach don’t even have any network on the site as they chose another operator – so which site are you referring to

  2. AndyH

    @ Fastman – He’s our resident troll. Comes out whenever there is an article that has nothing to do with BT to have a pop at them for being such a big, bad, evil corporation.

  3. Tim

    It’s becoming a crowded market. BT should be worried.

    BUT very few are sorting the big digital divide in rural areas, some of which aren’t even that rural. Here I’m just a couple of minutes from a motorway junction, 12-15 minutes from a city centre and within a commutable distance from London (high-speed train or by road). Not in the middle of nowhere up in the Scotland highlands yet it seems broadband here is worse. We don’t get the grants, the news headlines or trials (g.fast).

    I’ve started an Openreach Community Partnership to try and bring 330Mbps FTTH to the community of Oversland and South Street (Boughton). But it seems impossible to get any local news etc interested in even retweeting, even this site has ignored me.

    So for anyone in Oversland and South Street that is interested in getting FTTH here is the link to register:- https://goo.gl/forms/8tCvLdzDIzJXLSRr1

    Oh and if anyone at British Fibre Networks is reading this and interested in building a full-fibre network here please let me know!

    • Andy

      Just checked a random address in Oversland and South Street and it had access to FTTC with an estimated speed of 74Mbps.

    • Fastman

      if you looking a CFP you nee to be looking at who is around you close to you (and using the BT wholesale checker ad an address level to work out who is close and would benefit from a CFP as the more defined you are the more chance you have and finding solution that works and can be funded and then deployed

    • TheFacts

      As in:

      Postcode: ME139NJ
      With Unlimited Fibre Broadband, you can get an estimated download speed of 2 – 4Mb and an estimated upload speed of 1Mb.

    • AJW

      “Just checked a random address in Oversland and South Street and it had access to FTTC with an estimated speed of 74Mbps.”

      What a stupid comment! Do you honestly think Tim would set up a CFP if he could already get 80Mbps? The BT/Openreach database throws up mistakes all the time.

      Was this random address the Sewage Treat Works in postcode ME13 9NJ? According to the BT DSL Checker this can get 78Mbps/20Mbps…but all the other addresses in the postcode get 2-4Mbps.

      Maybe the smell of sh1t helps speed it up?

  4. TheFacts

    Interesting background for Elfed – https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/ygHmNGEYdRyvU_MJvJhej5cn-Uc/appointments

    Company seems to be BRIT FIBRE NETWORKS LTD – https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10890135 with officers BOOKLESS, John Howard and HINDER, Paul Ronald

    What BT monopoly on new build?

  5. TheFacts

    35% of the market with other competitors in less than 4 years with no product yet?

    • AndyH

      As I posted on TBB, I fail to see how this is worthy news.

      Their LinkedIn profile claims they have 10,001+ employees https://www.linkedin.com/company/british-fibre-networks This is complete BS. The website listed there is http://britishfibrenetworks.net/ was registered on 5 November 2017 to Elfed Thomas with his Gmail address and there is no company listed.

      The website http://www.britishfibrenetworks.co.uk/ is registered to Coverd Limited, of which Elfed Thomas is the sole director. The address provided is fake and the claim of the trademark is also bogus according to the IPO database.

      Coverd Limited has failed to file its annual accounts (due October 2017), and there was a notice to strike the company off the register last week. The last filed accounts showed the company had £66 in the bank and tangible fixed assets of £364.

      I might as well start a company this afternoon to send a rocket to the moon and see what media outlets are interesting in writing a story about me…

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