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Altnet ISP Zzoomm Proposes Changes to Deliver a Full Fibre UK by 2025

Friday, July 26th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 1,664
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Oxford-based ISP Zzoomm, which hopes to cover 1 million homes with a 10Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network by the end of 2024 (here), has proposed a series of changes that new PM Boris Johnson could make to help achieve universal “full fibre” coverage of the UK by 2025.

At the time of writing Boris Johnson has only just taken office and thus it’s probably a bit too soon to expect much in the way of any solid detail on how he intends to deliver upon his pledge to have “fantastic full fibre broadband sprouting in every household” by 2025 (we haven’t yet heard the seemingly unachievable 2025 date repeated since he took office).

As usual there’s a lot of speculation about watering down the definition of “full fibre” (to include Virgin Media) or “premises passed“, making significant market changes, ploughing huge sums of public money into the project and so forth. At present nobody really knows (except Boris, hopefully..) but no matter what route he takes, 2025 still looks a bit on the unachievable side.

In the meantime new start-up Zzoomm, which has yet to begin its own rollout (here), has proposed a few changes of its own. “We will need to make this a national priority just as we did in the 19th Century during the development of the UK’s railway infrastructure,” said the ISP.

According to ZZoomm, the successful delivery “requires tough decisions and willingness to tolerate the temporary suspension of certain rights related to property, planning and access.” If this is done then the provider believes that we could be passing c.4 million premises per year. We think they’d need to be closer to c.5 million when allowing time for policy creation and remember, that has to be sustained in rural areas too (not so easy).

However the provider also warns that all of this needs to happen “immediately,” which probably isn’t realistic for all of the required changes. The wheels of democratic government simply do not turn that fast.

Zzoomm’s Proposals

As a country, we need to amend or suspend regulations and bylaws that are designed to provide checks and balances to new infrastructure build, and as a result slow down and increase the cost of that build. And in parallel, we must remove any barrier that delays or prevents consumers switching to full fibre broadband at pace.

* Suspend planning law
Full fibre build no longer requires public consultation or negotiation with planning authorities over the location or size of equipment.

* Suspend highways law
Modern construction techniques such as narrow trenching, on site recycling and liquid reinstatement must be permitted.

Permits and notices are not charged and granted automatically. Fines are not applied. Section 58 and other notices that restrict access to work in the highways are disregarded. All works can commence following a 7 day notice. Road closure procedures accelerated to 7 day notice for closures of less than 24 hours. No limits, formal or informal, on the number of gangs operating in any specific location.

* Suspend private property law
Automatic right of access to all properties to deliver full fibre into the residential or business property. Automatic grant of wayleaves over private land for infrastructure with no lasting visual impact for a standard, national rate card payment to the landowner by land type.

* Suspend immigration restrictions for full fibre labour
Ensure easy access to full fibre construction workforce through simple work visa processes irrespective of worker’s nationality. Provide support to operator and contractor led training schemes to build in the UK full fibre skills and expertise.

* Change broadband advertising rules and empower consumers
Clear advertising and communication so that consumers can easily identify and switch to full fibre broadband services compared to other technological solutions. Remove all barriers that delay or prevent migration from copper-based broadband to full fibre broadband.

Interestingly Zzoomm doesn’t mention the need to extend the business rates holiday beyond its current 5 year run (like Scotland has already done), although that’s probably just an oversight on their part. In reality there are quite a few other things that may need to be considered but we’ll wait to see what the new Government proposes before digging into those.

The ISP also suggested that around £20bn may be needed and the “vast majority” of this should come from “private investors,” although it’s unclear how many investors would be willing to throw billions to connect up those in the final 30-40% of premises that are traditionally much slower and more expensive to reach.

We should say that private investment is already in the process of funding the first c.50% of premises, although it’s hard to be precise due to the ever uncertain element of overbuild between rival operators.

Zzoom Statement

To unlock private capital quickly, the Government should provide medium term regulatory certainty and support with access to low cost long-term debt financing early in the construction phase.

In addition, we must foster an environment of collaboration between full fibre builders and local authorities to resolve issues on the ground quickly. As well as between competing full fibre builders to limit inefficient overbuild of networks that risk some properties suffering disruption from multiple full fibre builds in the same streets at the cost of substantial delays to full fibre upgrades in other areas.

Changes to our regulations and bylaws, along with greater collaboration, will enable operators to deliver high quality fibre infrastructure rapidly and encourage consumers to switch to full fibre broadband services.

If these measures are implemented in early 2020, we can achieve national full fibre by 2025 and enjoy the economic prosperity and competitiveness that full connectivity will bring across the UK.

Fostering collaboration between competitive full fibre builders is a nice thing to say but in reality tends to be like herding cats, due to all of the competing interests involved, although we salute Zzoomm for putting some actual ideas down on paper.

Sadly you can’t rush complicated changes to laws and regulation, particularly when Brexit is likely to be Boris’s focus for the next few months and some believe he may not even survive until 2020. In that sense Boris can probably get away with promising the moon on a stick right now.

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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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19 Responses
  1. Avatar Barney

    Looks like Zzoomm “what the cake and eating it”. All of these concessions but are they willing to invest for Fibre in rural and semi-rural areas? I doubt it!

    • Avatar CarlT

      If 100% FTTP by 2025 is to happen this is how it’ll have to be. There’s nothing controversial or grasping here.

  2. Avatar Meadmodj

    While we all desire an effective broadband service it should not develop into a free for all. Yes we need to remove unnecessary barriers and the short term disruption however we really want an infrastructure that has minimal effect on out environment such as unsightly street furniture and techniques that undermine the longterm structure of our roads and pavements.

    BT already has a significant duct structure as does VM so in my view both should be available.

    If some insist on network designs that include street level equipment they should buy some land to house them and not get free space on our pavements and grass verges. If you need an example just look at mobile mast installations now with 5 or 6 large enclosures.

    So yes take away unnecessary bureaucracy but we need to ensure good practice.

  3. Avatar AnotherTim

    “just as we did in the 19th Century during the development of the UK’s railway infrastructure” – I’m not sure the railways are a good model to follow. Development was quite fast, but resulted in a hodge-podge of regional services – the effects of which persist to this day. Some areas benefited greatly, other areas were bypassed by the railways and became back-waters. That is already happening with broadband – I don’t want to see that being exacerbated by design. I’d rather see an organised national plan that ensures everywhere is covered, not just the areas that commercial companies cherry-pick.

    • Avatar Barney

      Nationalise Openreach and pump money in then!

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      Well we are already pumping money in, not just to OR but to other companies through the BDUK schemes. There probably isn’t a need to nationalize any, but I think there is a need to have a much clearer and stronger overall plan rather than the piecemeal patchwork of local BDUK schemes.

    • Avatar CarlT

      The monies provided via BDUK etc really aren’t pumping funds in they’ve been a tiny trickle. This would require way more cash. Given all the other promises we’ve been given aside from debt I am not sure where this will come from.

  4. Avatar Meadmodj

    The first question for the Government will be whether they want to maximise investment or not. In addition bringing the target forward to say 2025 or 2027 will basically write off legacy DSL and HFC along with the investments of the WISPs and possibly niche FTTP players.

    If we wish to bring the target forward then we need to make every pound and minute count. Even in urban Cityfibre say things like “hope to cover 85% of premises” which infers over 15% will not be covered and may lead to a higher per premise FTTP cost later for those premises (including public subsidy). We should discourage overbuild as it is inefficient.

    My view has always been a single fibre infrastructure but to do that we need 100% coverage obligations, regulated ISP independence (from BT/SKY to WISP for broadband and telephony) and sharing of all infrastructure now and ongoing whether its BT, VM, Cityfibre, OFNL or other maximising accessibility. In that way we can focus investment with 64 telephone areas, 5600 telephone exchanges which can be released to Network providers via 12 month tranches. If they fail to complete a tranche then they don’t get any more until they do. Those already with a presence in a telephone area will be able to incorporate that in their bid.

    In this way all civils and cabling activity is focused with a 100 utilisation. We don’t need complicated bureaucratic funding schemes. We should be able to model the average provision cost in bands based on telephone line distance. To pay for this is we have a simple levy or specific VAT rate that allows for the subsidy for each distance band above the commercial provision.

    Only problem for the Conservatives is this will not please the lobbyists from the Construction Industry and Investment houses. i.e less money in it.

    So is the objective FTTP or making money for their buddies.

  5. Avatar tim

    “The first question for the Government will be whether they want to maximise investment or not. In addition bringing the target forward to say 2025 or 2027 will basically write off legacy DSL and HFC along with the investments of the WISPs and possibly niche FTTP players.”

    No it will not The Borris aim is to make available “fibre” broadband for all by 2025, he has not said anything about scrapping the availability of other services. If you have a Wireless ISP or a altnet FTTP provider you will still be able to have them, they do not just suddenly die and go away. As for ADSL, FTTC, G.Fast and other BT related copper line tech it will be upto BT and their ever changing goals to switch them off by whatever date.

    “If we wish to bring the target forward then we need to make every pound and minute count. Even in urban Cityfibre say things like “hope to cover 85% of premises” which infers over 15% will not be covered and may lead to a higher per premise FTTP cost later for those premises (including public subsidy). We should discourage overbuild as it is inefficient.”

    Indeed so there is no need for large chunks of the FTTP that BT have provided and continue to provide in areas that already have FTTP for another provider. (The same goes the other way for any area where BT have deployed but noone else has).

    “My view has always been a single fibre infrastructure but to do that we need 100% coverage obligations, regulated ISP independence (from BT/SKY to WISP for broadband and telephony) and sharing of all infrastructure now and ongoing whether its BT, VM, Cityfibre, OFNL or other maximising accessibility.”

    Which can not work and conflicts with your idea of avoiding over build, because there already is overbuild of FTTP in areas. Infrastructure sharing all sounds nice in theory but with Fibre which is likely to have decades worth of life span (id actually expect it to last longer than copper). If i were an infrastructure provider/ISp/builder i would be look at rental costs of using others whether its BT, VM, Cityfibre etc infrastructure over say a 10 year period verses cost of deploying my own fibre. If the rental cost is not significantly less over that period verse building my own and ive got the finance then sorry but NO im building my own. Others in the providing field may feel differently but i believe if you want great reward you have to take risk, rather than play safe.

    “In that way we can focus investment with 64 telephone areas, 5600 telephone exchanges which can be released to Network providers via 12 month tranches.”

    Why would other providers building FTTP even need a BT telephone exchange???

    “We don’t need complicated bureaucratic funding schemes. We should be able to model the average provision cost in bands based on telephone line distance. To pay for this is we have a simple levy or specific VAT rate that allows for the subsidy for each distance band above the commercial provision.”

    What??? You do not want complication but you are going to advocate a complicated distance scheme? God knows how that works based on “telephone line distance” a large amount of FTTP developments do not follow the path of the old copper telephone line so that distance figure would be meaningless, even more so if a BT exchange is not involved in the provisioning of a FTTP line.

    It sounds to me based on your want of a single fibre infrastructure model you want things to basically carry on as they have with copper services for the past near 30 years. How that helps get services to 100% in a quicker time is confusing…. Many infrastructure providers building will reach more people than a single one building. Unless of course your favoured single provider (i think we can all work out who you think that should be) should be the only ones allowed to overbuild.

    Competition is good, call me when some of the big players you mention (BT, VM etc) are interested in getting fibre where it is needed rather than where profit is greatest, then we can talk about your single provider utopia again and kill off all those nasty own infrastructure providers that have already provided in smaller niche areas the likes of BT, VM etc have had no serious plans of ever touching.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I only have one gas supply. I only have one electrical feed. Why do I need multiple networks outside each running at fraction of their utilisation.

      There is no reason why OR and the other providers cannot have discrete network areas each as long as the consumer is protected.

      The reference to Exchange areas is because predominantly that is the layout of the majority of existing duct. VM networks of course may vary as will any new duct where appropriate.

      Once there is FTTP coverage in an area legacy and WISP will be hit as the FTTP will provide reliability and speed consistency with lagacy only remain as contingency.

      FTTP will cost a lot more and take a lot longer to achieve if competitive at base infrastructure level. My view is that the competition should be at ISP level.

      To ramp up to FTTP by 2025 we need to convert at over 100,000 per week. If any resource is used in overbuild that would need to be higher.

    • Avatar tim

      “I only have one gas supply. I only have one electrical feed. Why do I need multiple networks outside each running at fraction of their utilisation.”

      What you ‘need’ has nothing to do with what is available or what others need, want or get.

      The Gas and Electricity Vs Broadband argument has been done by certain other individuals on here before its a daft argument and you may as well compare chalk to cheese, however if you insist.

      Some rural folks still have a gas or oil tank rather than a gas mains supply (lets call that dial up for your broadband compare to power services).

      You have a regular and common gas supply like most (that would be the xDSL when compared to broadband).

      Others do not have a gas supply at all, some new developments now come with solar panels, there are even real high end properties that have fuel cells now. Its called technology and non-reliance on fossil fuels (or when compared to your broadband its the newest shiniest version of fixed line which would be FTTP).

      So nope your argument of “one supplier” does not work there either.

      “There is no reason why OR and the other providers cannot have discrete network areas each as long as the consumer is protected.”

      I do not see how that will work if you want a single infrastructure provider. Are you advocating one company (we can all guess which one) builds it and other then have to buy/rent it off them rather than build there own?

      “The reference to Exchange areas is because predominantly that is the layout of the majority of existing duct. VM networks of course may vary as will any new duct where appropriate.”

      The the distance-exchange idea you have does not work then seeing as VM already cover half the country.

      “Once there is FTTP coverage in an area legacy and WISP will be hit as the FTTP will provide reliability and speed consistency with lagacy only remain as contingency.”

      I fail to see how many people what already have FTTP available do not take it, many that have VM available do not take that. Some people in an FTTP area or VM area may still only go for FTTC, likewise some in a FTTC may be more than happy with ADSL. I fail to see why FTTP will be any different. Peoples choices are not just down to speed of a product. Cost would be one other factor and what the company is like to deal with (aka customer service) when things do go wrong is another. In the case of an altnet or a small wireless ISP i imagine many are far more customer friendly than the likes of TT, BT or VM.

      “FTTP will cost a lot more and take a lot longer to achieve if competitive at base infrastructure level. My view is that the competition should be at ISP level.”

      That conflicts with your earlier view of “There is no reason why OR and the other providers cannot have discrete network areas”. Who is going to build the networks as a whole and then decide who gets what ‘discrete area’ of it?

      “To ramp up to FTTP by 2025 we need to convert at over 100,000 per week. If any resource is used in overbuild that would need to be higher.”

      Im assuming you are a BT/OR proponent for your ONE network vision, if i am wrong then i apologise to you and would like to know who you think should be allowed/given contract to build this single network that ISPs share. If it is BT/OR then there are a few issues..
      Why is BT/OR still overbuilding in areas? (numerous prior stories on here of them rolling out AFTER an altnet) Also why are they still wasting time and resources on G.Fast? They and you can say they have scaled that back, but that is just admitting it was a mistake without enough thought in the first place.
      Or a longer version of what i posted here…
      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/07/virgin-media-uk-confirms-1gbps-broadband-speeds-for-all-by-2021.html#comment-208141
      BT go the cheapest route at a fixed point in time, that is not a moan on its own, there is nothing wrong with that, every organisation has its own business strategy, but its not always the best service route or the most future proof route.

      Expecting them to build anything for the future and get in done in double quick fashion is not going to work. Advocating they are given millions more to replace the 90% availability (or thereabouts) which they have already had significant money delivering FTTC in part to with FTTP IMO would be wrong.

      If i were the government id want to know why i should invest in an organisation again when my last wedge of cash was went on something that was supposed to be future proof and is now going to be dead already.

      If BT/OR they had gone the FTTP route in the beginning you would have me on your side (even if they had done a significantly smaller coverage than they have with FTTC and even if my own area was missed for years).

      If that had happened then id be all for giving BT/OR more money and your single network vision, heck id even go further and say if they had reached their originally 2 million FTTP goal set nearly a decade ago id support your vision,but sorry NOPE, that did not happen.

      BT/OR took the cash from funding and their own money and then spread it as much as they could delivering the minimum they could (IE 24Mb and up so called superfast) rather than going full fibre to begin with and now because other providers have came into the market providing FTTP when BT/OR did not, you expect me to now support them with a single network vision, thanks but no thanks. They had their chance at the future and they blew it.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      Low utilisation of anything means we pay more.

      I am not advocating BT/OR they already know they will only have a reduced market. I am advocating focusing the available investment and resource and avoiding FTTP overbuild for the next few years.

      We are where we are and it is going to take a lot longer, cost a lot more and will require significant public subsidy if we leave it simply to the competitive market model.

    • Avatar CarlT

      A single network requires nationalisation in some form or another of all of them alongside forbidding new infrastructure builds and would be subject to extensive legal challenges both from within and outside the UK.

      It cannot be done via private enterprise.

      See Australia’s NBN and other NBNs for more.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I don’t understand why we cannot have separate FTTP network providers without nationalisation which Labour have currently omitted. They can have geographical areas each under the same regulatory control we currently apply to OR. VM, Cityfibre or others could commit to provide FTTP and in return would be granted medium term FTTP exclusiveness in return. It would also spur on BT for OR FTTP if they want to retain market share.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @Mm – How would that fit in with code powers that enables providers to build infrastructure? Please explain how you would choose a provider, how the areas would be defined, how existing providers in an area would function, how long is medium term, what if another provider is wanted for a property etc. etc.

    • Avatar tim

      It can not be done, nevermind the legal challenges CarlT also correctly points out. Or the complication of how you choose who the network provider would happen as TheFacts points out also reiterates from my over complicated last paragraph of my prior post.

      The most obvious reason why a SINGLE infrastructure provider of FTTP can not happen is because already in various areas of the country there are more than a SINGLE FTTP network provider to customers. Advocating now a single infrastructure/network provider would mean either…
      A) Those that already have a choice of more than one would be the lucky few (A bit like the situation we have had for years with some having LLU some not, some having FTTC and some still not).
      B) If you were determined there is only going to be a single infrastructure provider you would have to somehow convince the country and the lucky residents that already have a choice of providers that is no longer going to happen and stop others in those areas providing. I imagine that would not go down too well.
      C) stifling deployments when deployments is actually what you want just seems absolute insanity.

      The way things were handled from the start with government subsidies which basically only got handed for the majority to one company and it ending up being, for the most part a FTTC rollout rather than FTTP is where the problem started. Small business (providers) saw an opportunity in certain areas of the country and took it. To stop that healthy competition and business happening now, would be stupid. The governments this country has had for the past 30+years have done enough to kill small business and innovation, lets not add to it.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I accept the history, that the horse has bolted and that there will be complexities regarding existing FTTP which may need exceptions and ISPs willing to offer multiple products (if technology differs). However the current situation is set to continue to deliver multiple competing low utilised networks in urban, with no total coverage and no significant progress in rural. My suggestion above was merely to highlight that there is a way if there was the will.

      To be clear I am proposing changing the regulation to discourage overbuild, have a clear funding mechanism, 100% coverage in an area and independent open ISP access regardless of the network provider. Gigaclear would be in a good position in their areas. VM would be in a good position in their RoG areas, similar for others. All able to access and use BT duct in areas not bid by OR. There appears to be investment promises and 100% utilisation surely would assist the ROI for this to go further.

      We have to do something otherwise it is going to be a long wait and Boris can go whistle.

    • Avatar tim

      You still fail to point out who is going to build this single network, who would own it, who is going to pay for it.

      As for using BT ducts as the solution, considering when it came/comes to PIA access BT and its commentators on here have already stated some ducts may be full already or in a poor condition (collapsed or otherwise not usable). Then using BT ducts is not the solution if it were providers would have adopted PIA in droves already…. They have not.

      Overbuilding IMO is a good thing, it brings choice to the consumer. The only time i would disagree with it is if one company says an area is not commercially viable so another steps in and fibres the area and then the company that originally stated they would not roll out to an area because it was not commercially viable comes along and tries to poach customers from someone that had the balls to do the work in the beginning. As far as i know there hass only been one company that has done things like that… Perhaps they should be using others ducts and paying rent for them also eh??? Then again that would also clash with your single network you are in favour of as that would mean more than one network throughout the country.

  6. Avatar FibreBubble

    These zoom fellows certainly seem good at building press releases. All bluster and no delivery. Boris will love them.

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