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ISP Zen Internet Sets Strong Future UK Network Goals for 2021

Friday, Apr 12th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 4,225
zen internet uk isp

Broadband ISP Zen Internet has revealed how they hope to unbundle a total of 700 exchanges from BT by 2021, which should enable their own network to cater for more than 80% of the UK with a total core capacity of 5Tbps (Terabits per second); before potentially rising to 987 exchanges by around 2025 (25Tbps core network).

At present the Rochdale-based provider has already invested many millions into building their own network of local exchange PoPs (Points of Presence) / Ethernet nodes, which has given them more flexibility to offer a better range of products and prices to both small businesses and residential consumers alike.

The result is that their own infrastructure now reaches 400 exchanges, which is roughly akin to around 55% coverage for their Openreach based “fibre” products (FTTC/P, G.fast etc.). We should add that 275 of those exchanges can also offer Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) style services (note: the ISP’s two main core sites are located in London and Manchester).


A further 50 or so exchanges are also about to be unbundled and that should take their coverage to over 65%, although the provider’s Lead Engineer, Richard Shaw, told UKNOF this week (see slides) that they still have a lot of areas to enhance (e.g. scaling can be difficult, as is mixing different traffic types and on the current network there’s no ability to use multiple backhauls from exchange to balance traffic etc.).

Future upgrades and new network architecture are planned to tackle issues like those mentioned above, as well as the “significant jump in core and aggregation bandwidth” (inc. edge, transit and BNG capacity) that they expect to see over the next few years.

zens network goals 2025 uk

Generally Zen, which is home to 126,000 UK broadband customers, has made no secret (here) of their desire to become a £100m business within 3 years and a £250m one within 10 years. In keeping with that they recently revealed (here) their plan to add another 83 jobs in the next year (as of Feb 2019 they employed about 490 staff and are opening a new office in Leeds).


The company last reported an annual turnover of £71m (up 11% on last year), with operating profit of £3m (up 55%) and EBITDA of £6m (up 19%) to the end of September 2018. In short, they’re going in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how they handle the rise in alternative “full fibre” network operators over the next 10 years.

Zen’s Current Exchange Coverage (2019)

zen internet unbundled isp exchange uk network

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar photo adslmax says:

    How to zoom in these map?

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      may have to try zens site for a better map – I assume its a screenshot from there.

  2. Avatar photo Jason Coombes says:

    I’ve been a very happy Zen Internet customer for about 10 years and while I pay more (we aren’t an unbundled exchange) I do that in the knowledge that I can speak to their technical support about SNR and have them tune our line to the maximum stable rate.

    Sadly my time with them is coming to an end as Gigaclear move into our village. While GC do offer 3rd parties to re-sell their FTTP product Zen isn’t one of those. I’ve spoken to the Zen sales team in the hope that might change, as GC expand their network, but no plans at this time.

    Just wanted to say that I’m pleased to see the plans they have and hopefully one day I can become their customer again (even if it means paying a little more).

  3. Avatar photo AnotherTim says:

    Unfortunately Zen only offer the HCA ADSL2+ packages in my area which are just too expensive for what they provide, and that won’t change until they get to 100% coverage.

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      Getting to 95%+ where market b ends looks more likely

    2. Avatar photo AnotherTim says:

      My exchange is Market A – although Plusnet now treat it a low cost since it got ADSL2+ a year or so ago. All the other ISPs still treat it as a high cost area, and most don’t offer any broadband at all. So I think it will be in the last few % to be covered by Zen.

    3. Avatar photo Joe says:

      Yeah i’m ‘A’ which cuts down the good deals somewhat but hey ho.

  4. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    So what happens once LLU in its current form gets retired, and copper lines are REPLACED by fibre?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Unbundling an exchange still has advantages, such as on the capacity side, which will continue to be of benefit even after the copper side is removed (helps FTTP too).

    2. Avatar photo AnotherTim says:

      I assume that the economics behind LLU unbundling will still apply when copper is retired – the currently uneconomic exchanges will still be uneconomic? Or will smaller exchanges go away altogether?

    3. Avatar photo Joe says:

      LLU won’t die we have VULA now on fibre which will become some form of fully unbundled fibre comes along.

      Still advantages – not just capacity/backhaul as Mark says but packages ie not tied to ORs choice of headend so the limits (ie the cap with ECI and 330)

      @AnotherTim: Yes many exchanges will go altogether. The major exchanges will become the core and the smaller ones go completely (or become mere nodes)
      Fib is inherently cheaper over time (Market A will get smaller under fib) many exchanges lose their purpose once the old copper structure goes – same with the cabs. (huge savings to be had just on rates once they close – let alone power)

    4. Avatar photo CarlT says:


      ‘Still advantages – not just capacity/backhaul as Mark says but packages ie not tied to ORs choice of headend so the limits (ie the cap with ECI and 330)’

      Please explain? You know that Zen are connecting to the Openreach FTTC/P network via said headends, right?

  5. Avatar photo Bill Pye says:

    I’ve currently in the process of returning to the UK after having lived in France for the last fourteen years.I’ve purchased a house in Orrell Park, Liverpool and the first thing I did was sign-up for Zen as my ISP. I’ve known about this company since they started and have always been impressed with the activity in the marketplace.

    I’m used to a 1gb fibre connection in France (200 TV channels, unrestricted up/downloads and free phone calls to 200 countries) all for 33 euros/month and the biggest disappointment in my new home is that I seem to be living in a little ‘black hole’ where I can’t get any better service (other than Virgin – no thanks!). Although I’m relatively close to the Exchange all the fibre connections seem to circle the area in which I live and that’s a bit disappointing. Never mind, I’m happy with Zen and still impressed by the company and it’s ethos, their tech support have also quick to answer my questions.

    I’ll look forward to further improvements in my service and sorry about the rambling introduction. 🙂

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      judging by fibrefirst you’re certainly very close to new fibre deployments – can’t be but a matter of time


  6. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    @Bill Pye: Your experience highlights the importance of doing a thorough research on the availability of fibre services first before buying a home. In the UK, it’s pretty much a postcode lottery.

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      It isn’t a lottery (a tiresomely overused phrase) bb is generally good exactly where you’d expect it to be good and bad where its expected to be bad. If a lottery was that predicable it would go bust as everyone would pick a winner.

Comments are closed

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