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Community Fibre’s Path to 10Gbps Broadband for 1 Million Premises

Monday, September 17th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 8,816
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5. The CEO of Openreach (BT), Clive Selley, recently highlighted that one of their biggest obstacles in urban areas was with working out who owns big buildings and then contacting them (necessary in order to negotiate a wayleave / access agreement). Hyperoptic’s boss has also made a similar complaint.

Selley suggested that every building should display their owner details and he wants a central registry for such information. On top of that he says it should also be a “requirement” to invite fibre optic broadband firms in to deliver FTTP/B when new buildings are being constructed.

Do you agree that this is one of the biggest problems and, in your opinion, what more could the Government and Ofcom do to further improve the coverage of FTTH/P services?

ANSWER:

As far as we are concerned finding the owner of a building is easy. Landlords are reluctant to work with Internet Service Providers because landlords have been told that “fibre” was already being deployed in their buildings, despite this not being the case. Many landlords have been treated badly, and it is important for Internet Service Providers to recognise that it is a partnership with landlords.

I believe that new builds should be designed to enable retrofitting, but I do not agree that landlords or developers should be mandated to invite fibre ISPs – the choice should remain with them.

Instead, what would be useful is clear documentation for landlords regarding which types of infrastructure they should be asking for in their properties.

6. With so many ISPs planning to deploy FTTH/P connectivity into urban areas, the prospect of a significant overbuild will rise. In some areas we might potentially see several FTTH/P providers, which is good for consumer choice but might not improve overall coverage and may frustrate locals if their streets are being dug up multiple times.

What approach do you think should be taken to this or is it more a matter for natural competition and potentially even future market consolidation to sort out?

ANSWER:

My answer might disappoint you, but I would not take any action or change the current approach. The current environment has created a healthy and responsive market for consumers. My goal is to create long term value by working in partnership with landlords and providing the best Internet Service to consumers.

I do however believe that more should be done to help landlords understand the difference between different technologies, and to mandate a full-fibre FTTH/P solution rather than partial fibre FTTC and FTTB. This will ensure that long term innovation and competition between providers will be driven as the infrastructure being installed will truly future-proof urban areas.

7. The Government’s new Telecoms Infrastructure Review is said to be mulling the controversial old idea of adopting regional franchises, which it’s been claimed could be used to help boost the coverage of “full fibre” broadband, particularly in rural areas.

Under this idea densely populated towns and cities, where the commercial model is easier to make, would be bundled together with swathes of less profitable countryside.

The idea acknowledges that there could be “major hurdles”, such as around the risk of creating new local monopolies, as well as the unclear impact on existing networks (including at wholesale) and the risk of creating a more confusing market for consumers. What are your thoughts on this option?

NOTE: Since posing this question the Government’s review has been published, which largely rules out a regional franchise approach (details).

ANSWER:

As you know, Community Fibre has benefited from the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund and it is good to see that DCMS is championing the transition from copper-based infrastructure to full-fibre. DCMS has created an environment where full-fibre companies can flourish but some of the changes proposed in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review could favour larger providers and create monopolies.

We just have to look at Openreach or Virgin Media to understand that national and local monopolies are not the right solution for the UK and for the people. It will lead to sub-standard infrastructure at a very high cost for consumers.

8. The Government has designed a 10 Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO), which should be introduced from 2020 and is likely to focus most of its efforts upon the final 2% of UK premises that won’t be covered by a superfast broadband network via the Broadband Delivery UK programme.

If you could design the USO, what criteria and timescale would you set to ensure that a good quality connection is constantly maintained to all those who request it and, perhaps most important of all, how would you fund it (the gov has decided on industry funding but they haven’t detailed it yet)?

ANSWER:

It is a hard question because we all know that 10-Mbps is not enough for the future, but it is a significant improvement for the final 2%. Given that the future is fibre and the Internet is now an essential utility for people, I would introduce a requirement to deliver the USO with fibre only.

ISPreview Editor’s Note: A full fibre USO would require a complete re-think of the current regulation and industry funding approach. It would also be impossible to deliver by the existing deadline of 2020, since the country isn’t expected to have universal FTTP until 2033 and right now that’s only an unfunded aspiration. Cart before the horse.

9. Ofcom will introduce a new voluntary Automatic Compensation system from early 2019, which will force UK ISPs to compensate consumers (cash or bill credits) for a total loss of broadband connectivity (e.g. when an outage lasts longer than 2 working days). Compensation will also be paid for missed engineer appointments and delayed service installs / activations.

At present only the largest providers have signed-up to the scheme and smaller operators have not joined. What are your thoughts on the usefulness of this scheme and is it something you would consider joining?

ANSWER:

Yes, I would love to join it. We should compensate customers for poor service and we fully support and welcome initiatives focused on improving customer experience. Whilst we have not subscribed to this initiative yet, largely due to time restraints and the need to invest in our internal systems, we do have our own compensation system in place.

10. Cityfibre recently announced that they were seeking a Judicial Review of the advertising watchdog’s decision not to clamp down on ISPs that advertised slow hybrid fibre (FTTC / VDSL2 / Cable etc.) services as “fibre”, “fibre broadband” or “fibre optic broadband” etc.

Cityfibre described the ASA’s reasoning as being “fundamentally flawed” and to quote their CEO, Greg Mesch: “The time has come to do away with ‘fake fibre’. The ASA’s short-sighted decision to allow yesterday’s copper-based infrastructure to masquerade as the future-proof full fibre networks of tomorrow is a clear failure in its duty.”

No doubt you also have a viewpoint on this matter?

ANSWER:

I fully support Cityfibre, and wish I had challenged the ASA myself. FTTC and FTTB are not fibre broadband and therefore should not be allowed to advertise as “full-fibre” or “fibre broadband” as it is hugely misleading for consumers. FTTH should be the industry standard, but where this is not possible, ISPs should be clear about the infrastructure they are deploying.

11. Finally, where do you expect Community Fibre to be in 2025?

ANSWER:

Given that we will have 500,000 premises passed by 2022, I would expect Community Fibre to have over a million premises (and potentially several million) passed by 2025, providing 10-Gbps to all of them, if not more. We will continue believing and working towards better Internet for everyone and are confident that we can deliver it!

We’d just like to take a moment to thank Jeremy for agreeing to set aside some of his time in order to engage with our interview.

We should add that Jeremy was born shortly after the creation of the internet and said he grew up fascinated by the way it was changing the way we learn, play and live. After graduating from 2 universities with an MSc in Computer Science and an MSc in Telecommunications, he also worked with the UK’s largest Internet Service Providers (i.e. Vodafone, O2, BT, Three UK and EE).

In 2013, having gained more than 10 years of experience in computing and networking, Jeremy started a technology consultancy working with ISPs and network vendors. This led him to meet the Chairman and Founder of Community Fibre and he became its CEO in 2015.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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5 Responses
  1. Avatar CarlT

    In theory, according to the marketing, 13+ million of us are passed by ‘gigaready’ networks right now but the majority can purchase at most ~400Mb with 20Mb up.

    Loathe when companies talk about what networks are capable of. If you live next to a cabinet twisted pair is gigabit capable.

  2. Avatar Grigore Ureche

    Gigabit internet is available in most homes of Romania, a 3rd world country, since ~2011, for the price of 9eur per month, like 2 bigmac menus. Built by private companies, from their own money, with no government support. And they offer 1Gbps to home cause it doesn’t make much sense to offer more to a family now, but the fibre (which goes to your apartment, btw) technically supports way more.

    And UK makes plans for 2025 while a county with income 1/8 of UK has this for 7 years already everywhere?

    • Romania has about 60% coverage of FTTP to the UK’s weak 3-4%. However they are weak in terms of overall coverage for slower “superfast” (30Mbps+) class connections, which only reach about 74%+ of the country vs 94%+ in the UK (add 1% or so if using the 24Mbps+ definition).

    • Avatar CarlT

      Romania is hardly third world now – EU member. Pricing can’t be readily compared with the UK – purchasing power parity very different so prices of things very different, much as Switzerland is more expensive than the UK in most regards.

      You guys have a lot more people living in apartments than we do in the UK. Less than 25% of the UK population live in apartments and even fewer in apartment buildings of any size.

      You also had the benefit of not having much of an ADSL/VDSL infrastructure in place so going directly to FTTB/P made sense. In the UK both regulation and the competitive environment made this more difficult.

      Lastly you guys have horrendous contention/congestion on your FTTB. A gigabit to the apartment isn’t much use if all the apartments in a large building are sharing a gigabit out of it, and your cable via UPC is pretty nasty for congestion too.

      TL;DR the two aren’t comparable.

    • Avatar Rahul

      Plus Romania although a relatively big population is still 3 times smaller than the UK population. These factors should also be taken into consideration. The bigger the population the more work is needed to serve the population with Fibre.

      We can see an example in Bulgaria where 75% have FTTP. But land is smaller and population is only 7-8 million. There’s less urbanisation so it is somewhat easier to do the digging. Fewer red tapes and planning permissions required. But that is also not good because in Bulgaria some private sectors tend to do whatever they want. There should be a golden median between not too restrictive and not too loose wayleave.

      But still we don’t live there because other aspects of life and living standards in Bulgaria and Romania is more expensive even if Fibre is only 9 euros a month. Monthly salary is the equivalent of UK weekly salary. So you might have Fibre there, but you won’t have a well paid job unless you are a successful businessperson.

      If my calculations are correct, paying £50 in the UK for 1Gbps vs 9 Euro a month in Bulgaria/Romania still gives you a cheaper life in the UK overall due to better wages. This may be a paradox.. But it is no wonder Bulgarians and Romanians come to live in the UK, they are happy to sacrifice Fibre Broadband as that is still viewed as a luxury when they consider job and salary as a more important factor in their life.

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