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ISP B4B Networks Plan FTTP Broadband Rollout in N.Ireland UPDATE

Friday, May 11th, 2018 (11:07 am) - Score 1,880
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Belfast-based ISP B4B Networks, which until now has largely focused upon serving business premises in Northern Ireland, has hinted that they could soon build their own “full fibre” FTTP/H style “ultrafast” broadband network to homes and businesses in certain parts of the UK.

The information came to light as part of B4B’s request for Code Powers from Ofcom, which are often sought by infrastructure builders in order to help them simplify and speed-up the planning process (e.g. by reducing the number of licenses needed for civil engineering work to take place).

B4B said it intended to design build, operate, own and deliver their “ultrafast” fibre optic broadband to businesses and / or homes in “urban areas and underserved and remote rural areas.” Apparently they’ve already conducted a “successful” trial of such a network to premises in various business parks throughout Northern Ireland (e.g. Newry and Limavady).

Under the new plan they claim to have identified projects in Belfast as well as Northern Ireland provincial towns. In addition to this, as part of the new Government’s Gigabit Voucher Scheme, it is also working on identifying projects in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Bristol, Bath, and North East Somerset, Coventry, Warwickshire, West Yorkshire and West Sussex.

Ofcoms Statement

The applicant has explained that it will be delivering FTTP/FTTH connections to provide Ultrafast Managed internet connectivity and propose to share its ducts with third parties to assist with 5G backhaul for mobile operators and for the delivery IOT applications to help towns and cities deliver their “Smart City” vision. The Applicant states that being able to install its own network of ducts it can offer a competitive service and help future proof businesses in the regions to which it has a presence.

The applicant has explained that the availability of FTTH/FTTP is currently very low in Northern Ireland, as only 0.2% of premises can get download speeds of at least 300Mbps. Many SME’s suffer poor broadband speeds and unreliable service even in areas with high concentrations of businesses, in cities and towns.

The major providers only offer FTTH/FTTP either in areas where they currently have no presence at all (very rural areas) or at a significant cost to the consumer. The cost of Fibre-on-Demand can be prohibitive to many consumers. The Applicants Networks will provide access to ultrafast FTTP at significantly more competitive prices.

Given the proportion of SME’s in NI, introducing ultrafast broadband could help grow the economy by aiding businesses.

The claim that only “0.2% of premises can get download speeds of at least 300Mbps” in N.Ireland appears to be out of date, not least due to the fact that Virgin Media’s now 350Mbps capable cable network can reach nearly a third of the country.

Ofcom’s most recent data from January 2018 noted that 35% of N.Ireland (266,000 premises) could get access to such a speed, while “full fibre” coverage allegedly stands at 8% (58,200 premises). However we note that Thinkbroadband’s most recent data seems to disagree and puts the figure at 1.48%, which confuses matters (we’ll ask Andrew to clarify).

Nevertheless there’s definitely plenty of room for B4B to expand, although they’ll need to remain mindful of N.Ireland’s £150m future plans to expand “full fibre” services (here) but that’s more for rural areas. As usual we expect the regulator to approve B4B’s proposal and ISPs have a habit of putting their most optimistic aspirations into such requests (i.e. they should be taken with a pinch of salt until something solid is announced).

UPDATE 11:59am

B4B has clarified to us that they have no plans to do FTTH in the “short term” and are currently focused on FTTP for businesses in Northern Ireland / Republic.

Dominic Kearns, B4B Group CEO, said:

“Our initial focus is serving business hubs around Northern Ireland with FTTP, building on our existing roll out to 15 business parks throughout the region. We’ve currently about 20 prospective projects in the pipeline and demand for services is welcomingly high.

As a company we are proud of our delivery of business services to our customers. Key to this is reliable future proofed fibre connectivity and we see ourselves as the alternative business ISP to the major players in Northern Ireland.

In terms of the £150m state aid for Northern Ireland we are keen to see competition for delivery of full fibre services to the rural areas that are currently not served by superfast speeds. We see this money as a major stimulus to attracting much wider investment currently being experienced by the market.”

Meanwhile Thinkbroadband has confirmed that the reason their coverage figures are so much lower in N.Ireland than Ofcom’s is because they aren’t counting Virgin Media’s FTTP / RFOG deployments, which are also quite difficult to identify.

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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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6 Responses
  1. DevonPaddler

    Umm really – projects in Bath & NE Somerset?? Where Truespeed & Gigaclear are both building at scale plus Openreach and CDS Gainshare activity could also pop up

    Sounds suspect to me

    • TheFacts

      ‘Working on identifying’ is a bit vague.

    • b4bniamh

      Reference to these areas was included in the submission because they had been identified as LFFN trial areas but we currently have no plans there.

  2. b4bniamh

    Apart from a potential project in Bristol, B4B’s current focus for rolling out services is in Northern Ireland.

  3. BuckleZ

    Hi Niamh

    Any particular areas or more in-depth plans in N.Ireland?

  4. b4bniamh

    Hi

    Happy to discuss our plans. Feel free to email me at niamh@b4bgroup.ie.

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