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ISP Plans FTTP Broadband for 350K Premises in South West England

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 (11:11 am) - Score 3,813

Alternative UK network providers seem to be cropping up like spring flowers and the latest to join that club is Jurassic Fibre, which has an ambition to invest over £250m into building a 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network to cover 350,000 premises across Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

The target is incredibly ambitious for a provider that only established itself in 2018 and hasn’t yet built a “full fibre” network in the United Kingdom, which might otherwise be ringing alarm bells. However there are several reasons for cautious optimism.

Firstly, the CEO of Jurassic Fibre is Michael Maltby, a local resident of Sidmouth in East Devon. Michael is known to have helped build several fibre optic and similar networks around the world, including in Russia and the Caribbean. On the flip side Michael’s core skill set, according to Linkedin, is more in business and economics than telecoms.

Secondly, the ISP has just secured funding from Fern Trading Limited (Fern), advised by Octopus Investments (Octopus), which has acquired the company and will provide funding for an expansion plan that “could over the next few years exceed £250m, creating jobs and essential infrastructure.” Exactly how much of that has already been committed is unclear, but we suspect it’s a much smaller sum.

Michael Maltby, CEO of Jurassic Fibre, said:

“Jurassic Fibre is very pleased that Fern, advised by Octopus, has agreed to acquire the company and fund the roll out of its GPON ultrafast broadband network across the South West of England. It is a strong statement of faith both in the company and future of the region. Over the coming months and years, we look forward to working with communities, businesses and councils to build the digital infrastructure required to put the region at the forefront of the UK economy.”

Paul Latham, CEO of Fern, said:

“This is a great opportunity for Fern to back a highly experienced management team with a track record of building full fibre networks across the world, providing stable returns for our investors who want to put their money to work in the UK economy.”

John Sellgren, Dorset Council Executive Director for Place, said:

“Dorset welcomes this commercial investment. It will bring fantastic opportunities to the businesses, residents and visitors of Dorset. We recognise the importance of high speed reliable digital connectivity and this announcement gets Dorset well on its way to the Government’s ambition of full fibre for the whole country by 2033.

We look forward to working with Jurassic Fibre to facilitate their deployment.”

At present we know very little about what sort of packages and roll-out plan is being envisaged for this previously unknown provider, although their deployment will initially focus upon connecting up an area of East Devon between Exeter Airport and Exmouth (i.e. along the A376 corridor). Specific details should be coming soon.

Like all such altnets they will face a challenge from the fact that rival operators (e.g. Openreach (BT), Gigaclear, Wessex Internet and others) are also engaged in the slow process of deploying FTTP broadband networks, around both urban and rural parts of all three counties.

However it will take many years for those ISPs to help collectively achieve the Government’s aspiration for nationwide coverage by 2033, which should leave plenty of gaps for Jurassic Fibre to fill. Nevertheless it’s likely to be an uphill struggle, particularly with everybody else gobbling up all of the skilled contractors.

You only have to ask Gigaclear, an ISP that spent years building itself up from nothing into a more mature player, about the challenges involved in order to understand why simply throwing money at a roll-out isn’t always enough (here).

One other concern is that this patch-work of physically separate networks, while bringing more choice, may also create more confusion for consumers when they go shopping around for a new ISP. Inevitably we’d expect to see some consolidation further down the road.

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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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19 Responses
  1. chris conder says:

    Fantastic! Power to the people.

    1. TheFacts says:

      Not people, company with shareholders.

    2. GNewton says:

      “Not people, company with shareholders.”

      So what? How come a company is able to come up with a workable buisness model to implement a new fibre network in these areas, whereas BT, which already has an infrastructure (e.g. poles, ducts, etc) isn’t able to build fibre there, not even with the aid of taxpayer’s monies?

    3. Joe says:

      Of course OR could build there: its basic economics; for X amount of time and Y amount of money they could probably build 10x more fttp in urban and make Z times more money in the same time-frame.

    4. Jim Weir says:

      They have to build it, get customers and keep them before you can judge if the business model works.

      The CEO was previously CFO of Mars One so clearly isn’t worried about being ambitious!!

    5. Joe says:

      Jim, their this fibre package is ‘out of this world’ jokes just write themselves.

    6. TheFacts says:

      @GN – where is taxpayers money available to BT to install in the same area?

      Could be a Fibre First area in the future.

    7. Joe says:

      Exeter is FF but Exmouth/sidmouth isn’t even in the running as its just not big enough for FF which is basically cities.

    8. GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: The bottom line is this: No taxpayer’s money should have ever been used for BT. BT is a commercial company. If it can’t do the job, then let others do it. Nobody forces you to be BT shareholder or employee.

    9. TheFacts says:

      @gn – which others? Gigaclear have not excelled themselves.

  2. Joe says:

    Very patchwork in that area – I can see there may be sections they could carve out. OR have fttp at the airport and various towns across honiton/seaton and spots of bduk rurals. Across to seaton is clear but they have vdsl2 widely though not good speeds.

  3. Graham Long says:

    Why GPON? Why not point to point Ethernet over fibre?

    1. Jim Weir says:

      Because if you are targeting overbuild of FTTC you need to be cost conscious at retail, so you need the lowest build cost to compete, & that is PON.

      No different to Cityfibre / Vodafone it’s all PON, it doesn’t mean it can’t be symmetrical if you want.

      If you build pure rural without any other competition then it’s waier to justify the cost of just build point to point Ethernet but if you look the monthly retail is higher for those providers

    2. Fttx says:

      Pon is the common sense model to deploy. To go full point-2-point day one is very ambitions and you need high connection rates to make it pay off. Most PoN networks (sensible ones) will leave a _P2P back door for later. VM, Cityfibre etc… there is a way to deploy P2P should it ever be needed.

      Aerial planning needs to consider this also, it’s easy to miss the upgrade path there.

  4. Bob2002 says:

    Despite its close proximity to Exeter neither Virgin Media or Openreach seem interested in Exmouth so this sounds like very good news – assuming it happens.

  5. Marty says:

    With the amount of overbuild from alt net providers springing up. maybe @Mark Jackson should set up a Alt net provider any suggestions of a name?

    1. Joe says:

      In honour of the ASA – GigaHypersuperFibre Net. And obviously it will provide only adsl over copper 🙂

  6. Archie says:

    I’d love to know how these little and regional ISPs connect to the wider internet. Do they have to connect to Openreach at some point?

    1. Jim Weir says:

      In simple terms, most small isp’s start with a leased line / EAD product that provides dedicated internet bandwidth, then over time most will migrate to a more mature & scalable core network based in (multiple) data centres. Within that core they will advertise their own public IP address block out to the wider internet using IP transit & peering with an internet exchange for common services & content.

      They may use Openreach to connect back to their core, or any number of other providers.

      If those all those elements are not sized correctly, that is where network congestion can & will occur and be noticed by end customers regardless of the access technology used (DSL, DocSIS, Wireless, or FTTH)

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