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ISP Sky Broadband Abandons Derbyshire UK FTTH Broadband Trial

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018 (8:40 am) - Score 6,576
sky broadband uk logo 2017

Customers of Sky Broadband’s early 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployment in Swandicote (Derbyshire) have this month been informed that the trial is due to end on 1st November 2018. Sadly the ISP said that they have “no plans to offer this service on a long-term basis.”

The trial deployment was first discovered in 2015 after a team of Sky’s (Easynet) engineers were spotted building new telegraph poles and fibre optic cable ducting around the civil parish village of Woodville, Midway and the Swadlincote areas of Derbyshire in England (here). At the time it was estimated that roughly 5,000 local homes could benefit (this would have cost a fair bit to roll-out – guessing c.£2m).

The development was similar to Sky’s earlier 2014 trial of a 950Mbps (Megabits per second) capable FTTH/P network around the town of Basingstoke in Hampshire (here). Crucially both of the Derbyshire and Hampshire builds are entirely separate from Sky’s more recent ‘Ultra Fibre Optic’ joint venture with TalkTalk and Cityfibre in the city of York (currently Sky remain an active wholesale partner on that deployment).

Apparently the Swadlincote area was originally selected because Sky believed that local residents were interested in ultrafast broadband and because it offered a representative cross section of the terrains / conditions that could be found elsewhere in the UK.

However the operator never revealed any findings from their earlier 2014/15 trials and in 2016 Sky’s CEO confirmed that they had no plans to build further FTTH/P networks in the UK (here). In that sense the writing was already on the wall and it was perhaps just a matter of time until they made the decision to end it.

We’ve pasted a copy of the letter below (sorry for the quality). This was kindly sent to ISPreview.co.uk by one of the affected customers (Chris), who said: “I can’t understand why sky will not offer a product on it, as it’s worked flawlessly for the trial period.” Our article continues below.

sky_broadband_swandicote_trial_letter_ispreview

The timing of this development is particularly interesting because it follows a little over one month after Sky Broadband largely confirmed that they were going to launch a new range of “ultrafast broadband” packages, which would be based off Openreach’s G.fast and FTTP network instead of building their own (here).

More importantly it also comes hot on the heels of Comcast’s successful £30bn move to take control of Sky plc (here). The US cable giant is heavily broadband centric and if any owner was going to take a different approach in the future then it’s them.

At this stage the Comcast deal is still being finalised and during such a transition there’s usually a period of pause, where no major decisions are taken (i.e. allowing the new owner time to choose a new strategy). So we can speculate that either today’s decision was taken long before any deal was agreed (the trial was originally only supposed to run for 6 months) or Comcast has given an unofficial nod to it, which might suggest that they’re happy to stick with the Openreach model.

We have requested a comment from Sky and are awaiting their response.

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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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15 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    It’s quite predictable really. They have no interest in the York venture either.

    And despite TalkTalk’s Fibre to the Press announcements. I don’t expect they’ll do any FTTP elsewhere either.

    Shame really as these are the two biggest rivals to BT that constantly moan about the lack of FTTP. But neither want to actually roll it out themselves.

    • Avatar Matt

      What makes you think Talktalk won’t offer nationwide FTTP in partnership with Infracapital? Do you have insider info this? Or is it just your wish that they don’t so that you can continue to bash them?

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/02/isp-talktalk-propose-full-fibre-broadband-3-million-uk-premises.html

    • Avatar Mike

      Could also be the first symptoms of a Comcast takeover starting to show.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      No, not my wish at all. It would be great to see them do it.

      No insider info. Just my own personal opinion. Last time I checked, its ok to have one of those 😉

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      Infracapital are inevitably going to pause any further investment in FTTP until Gigaclear is back on track, they completed their majority buy out in the summer and since then it has all been a bit problematic with a lot of blame going on “former management “

      Once that is sorted I’m sure they’ll revisit it, but they are looking for a long term return not long term problems.

    • Avatar CarlT

      TalkTalk have appointed a director of FTTP, appointed in August, so I would presume they’ve plans. Gigaclear’s woes quite irrelevant.

    • Avatar Jim Weir

      That is about all Talk talk can do, they have no spare cash and will be reliant on Infracapital for the funding.

      Right now InfraCapital is being hauled in to reiterate their financial support to complete all Gigaclear projects, having just paid a substantial premium to take control. Naturally FTTP infrastructure isn’t going to be top of their investment options

  2. Avatar A_Builder

    Hopefully they will sell (preferably donate) the network to a local interest group/community company so they can continue to run it.

    Who knows it might be good publicity for them to support a B4RN continuance of what is there.

    It would be a shame if a FTTP network was just allowed to sit and rot.

    We will see a lot more of this as a few small/marginal operators fall off their perches and are subsumed.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      Yes, even if the kit changes the fibres to the premises are there. Yes theoretically easy for someone else to step in. Even OR could easily pick these up and divert to their infrastructure and re-engineer later. Unless of course the trial install was that bad, although the assets are assumed to have a value they also come with longer term liabilities.
      The letter infers people migrating from the trial back to DSL which is interesting and take up may have been diminishing. Sky I think simply compared the OR wholesale prices for FTTC and their recent agreement for FTTP for the future and considered this against the cost of continuing with their own network.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Meadmodj

      I’m not sure OR would take something on that does not fit their profile exactly.

      OR are very doctrinal about what fits and doesn’t fit them. That is part of the issue with why their engineering costs are so cuckoo: everyone else use an appropriate model OR try (tried) to use a one size fits all. In reality OR probably need at least five different engineering models for districting FTTP.

  3. Avatar InTheKnow

    Virgin Media have purchased the Swadlincote Network from Sky

  4. Avatar Derek Facey

    Sky no longer have any involvement in FTTP in York. It is now solely a TalkTalk venture.

  5. Avatar Patricia Watson

    Its a shame mate that they’re doing this

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