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Radio Silence Aside – TalkTalk Still Aims for 3 Million FTTP Premises

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 1,821

Budget UK ISP TalkTalk has told ISPreview.co.uk that they still “plan to be at the heart of Britain’s full-fibre future” by deploying a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network to cover 3 million premises, which follows nearly a year of almost complete silence since the project was unveiled.

Under the £1.5bn plan announced on 8th February 2018 (here), TalkTalk proposed to establish a new company (Infraco), which in turn would be 20% owned by TalkTalk and 80% by Infracapital (the infrastructure equity investment arm of M&G Prudential). The latter would contribute £400m and TalkTalk £100m (plus they expected take on c.£1bn in debt).

Since then there have been no truly significant updates on the project, aside from the appointment of a few bosses and a rumour that they might engage in a spot of passive infrastructure sharing with rival Virgin Media (here). The same cannot be said for their rivals, many of which have been busy announcing major roll-outs (Summary of UK Full Fibre Plans).

The radio silence has left some to wonder, ourselves included, whether or not TalkTalk’s own plans might have been overtaken or jeopardised by the rapidly rising ambitions of their rivals. After all it’s likely that the ISP would need to target many of the same urban areas, which is increasingly difficult when you have Openreach, Hyperoptic, Cityfibre / Vodafone, Community Fibre and others fighting over them too.

Nevertheless the provider remains adamant about their intention to reach 3 million premises.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“TalkTalk plans to be at the heart of Britain’s full-fibre future. As the leading value-for-money provider, we want to ensure all our customers can access it at affordable prices.

We’ve outlined our commitment to roll-out full-fibre to three million homes via a new infrastructure company, and we have already appointed a new CEO and Chairman. We’ll provide further updates shortly.”

We think that TalkTalk would have done better to team-up with an existing project, much like they did in York (pictured top) with Cityfibre and initially Sky Broadband too as part of their city-wide FTTP deployment (here). This would have made a lot more sense, particularly given the known shortage of skilled telecoms engineers and the rising level of competitive build ambitions between operators.

Going it alone carries more risk today than it did a year ago. In addition, the more independent networks that emerge, the greater the potential for consumer confusion from lots of different “full fibre” services. This is one of several reasons why we eventually anticipate a flurry of consolidation as networks seek to grow and centralise through acquisition, but they of course have to actually build something first.

In any case all eyes will now be on TalkTalk’s forthcoming results announcement, which we hope will offer a more substantial update on their future FTTP plans, ideally including a solid time-scale for the deployment and perhaps even some information on which areas will be the first to benefit. The ISP is perhaps better placed than most to make a success of such a deployment but they can’t afford to linger for much longer.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Mark Edwards says:

    We shall wait and see!

    1. Avatar Joe says:

      Wait may be the key word – I can’t see that their plans can’t have slipped substantially. Just getting engineers now is a nightmare.

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:

      @Joe

      “Wait may be the key word – I can’t see that their plans can’t have slipped substantially. Just getting engineers now is a nightmare.”

      Getting many good ground workers – who mostly used to be Eastern European is a nightmare as well.

      The holes and trenches need to be dug first.

      Sadly we told a lot of good hard working tax paying people that we didn’t like the sound of their voices in the UK and they responded by using their shoe leather. So we are already reaping the rewards of our great referendum.

      The other unknown is if interest rates go up much plant and machinery will get a lot more expensive: right now capital finance is usually free subsidised by the manufacturer. Big Co can just buy it. Little Co Subcontract Ltd may struggle.

      Although I do smell a bit of a rat with everyone else doing something and Talk Talk just talking. Sometimes ‘its good to talk’ is not convincing…..now who said that……?

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      I just can’t see it happening.

      I expect at some point they’ll announce a change in plan and will utilise Openreach and Cityfibre FTTP. Then they’ll moan to Ofcom about how expensive it is (with Sky) and try to get it cheaper.

    4. Avatar Joe says:

      @FibreFred: Deja vu all over again 😉

      @Builder: Its an issue. We may or many not know soon how much of an issue it really will be

  2. Avatar Granola says:

    “would need to target many of the same urban areas”.
    But why ?
    Go to a smaller town where there is nothing but FTTC at best and have a higher take up ratio. There has to be a sweet spot of work/costs involved versus expected take up and the take up must be lower where there is established competition.
    What am I not understanding ?

    1. Avatar Gary says:

      Theyr’e all looking at the big juicy pie and want a slice, nobody likes trail mix. This is the reality of ‘competition’ in our comms market, fighting over the same patch and driving lower and lower monthly prices to win market share but at a reduced return. Still I’m sure it makes sense to the bean counters otherwise it wouldn’t be this way.

  3. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    FTTP investment plans are in their infancy currently. The current crop are centred around existing back haul or existing infrastructure as it is cheaper to utilise existing connectivity than build or rent new capacity to more locations. Providers that up sell to include content will be looking at the demographics and their marketing research.
    Yes there will be a sweet point where cost turns to profit but the estimation of take-up and when that will occur is where their risk is. Although fibre may be projected to last 25 years (the equipment won’t) the investors will be expecting a return in the next few years.
    You would assume that those languishing on ADSL speeds would take advantage of FTTC Superfast where it is available but that is currently not the case. Consumers remain cost conscious and may not be seeking the speed increases being touted for some time. If this can happen on copper the same is likely to occur on the migration to FTTP. Different FTTP/H approaches mean that the cost/profit point can be considerably different. Much will depend on whether Ofcom interfere with DSL pricing which just adds to the uncertainty. Openreach remember has a FTTC/G.fast/FTTP combined strategy which means they can simply use the same backhaul, move equipment nationally and withdraw DSL at the appropriate time.
    Access to Openreach duct has been cited but that is a double edged sword. If a potential provider chooses an area where significant uplift of the plant is required that may result in possible cost and certain delays to their project. So they need to balance having their own infrastructure against using OR. In addition if they use Openreach duct there is nothing stopping another provider also utilising the same. So the competition may not necessarily be OR as these larger players may become under pressure from more agile companies.
    If you follow the investment trail then I doubt if the investors will want their investments to compete. So even if providers choose the same towns and cities they may not compete at street level. That is why although funding is agreed in principle all companies will keep actual roll-out close to their chests and may need to change dynamically to both consumer behaviour and competitors activity.
    Exchange Only Lines in all towns and cities has to be ripe for FTTP but logic does not always convert to profit. For rural and very rural still requires a sustainable subsidy mechanism for social inclusion. All I see currently is an overall network UK FTTP spend greatly above whats needed and the cost as usual falling on us the consumer.
    Interesting times.

  4. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    I’m still “aiming” to play professional football for a Premier League team. I wonder which is more likely, my aim or TalkTalk’s? 😉

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