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KCOM Formally Finish FTTP Broadband Rollout – Plan Expansion

Thursday, October 10th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 1,850
kcom telegraph pole female engineer

After a delay KCOM has today formally announced the completion of their £85m “Lightstream” project, which covers 195,000+ premises around Hull and East Yorkshire in England with their “gigabit-capable” Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network and a little FTTC (VDSL2). But the network could soon grow to cover new areas.

The incumbent operator’s original target was to ensure that “every KCOM customer will have access to Lightstream .. by March 2019,” which in reality means that nearly all of the premises within their addressable network area can access a “full fibre” connection, although a tiny proportion can only take a slower 75Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solution. Some 100,000 of their customers have already upgraded (i.e. others linger on ADSL2+ and phone-only lines).

NOTE: KCOM’s July 2019 results noted that they had 126,900 broadband customers (residential and business) or 91,400 when only looking at “fibre“.

Average download speeds of 94.7Mbps – based on web-based consumer speedtests – are now being recorded for the region (dragged down a bit by WiFi, package choice and ADSL users etc.) and their rollout has completed well ahead of the UK Government’s “gigabit-capable” for all target (2025).

Readers of ISPreview.co.uk will already be aware that the main rollout technically completed around in April/May 2019 (here), although at the time KCOM couldn’t make a big song and dance about this because they had become the subject of a bidding war between two large investment groups – Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and Macquarie Infrastructure (MIRA / MEIF 6 Fibre).

In the end Macquarie Infrastructure’s takeover offer of £627m ultimately won that battle (here) and as a result KCOM are now finally free to formally confirm their Ligthstream achievement.

Sean Royce, KCOM Managing Director, said:

“Seven years ago we promised our customers the fastest broadband in the UK and, following the completion of our Lightstream rollout, we are proud to say we’ve delivered it. Broadband is now an essential utility and access to the fastest speeds on earth is already making a positive difference to homes and businesses in the region, which in turn will help benefit UK plc.

Our investment in full fibre broadband to date has had a major impact on the region, enabling households to stream, surf and play seamlessly online and businesses to compete on a truly global scale, working faster and more efficiently.

It has put this region at the vanguard of the UK’s digital economy and set a benchmark for the rest of the UK to aspire to.”

Stephen Brady OBE, Leader of Hull City Council, said:

“It is fantastic for the city that full fibre broadband is now available across KCOM’s whole network.

All businesses rely on good connectivity, from the smallest to the largest, and this means businesses in Hull can be confident that they can work faster and more efficiently. The city is in the middle of an economic and technological revolution. Full fibre broadband is a vital part of this for both new businesses and existing businesses looking to expand and grow.”

The Lightstream effort should also make it fairly easy for KCOM to deliver the forthcoming 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) within their broadband network patch (here). On top of that we suspect they’ll be one of the first operators in the United Kingdom to start switching off their old legacy copper line network in the near future in favour of a VoIP platform for voice calls (here).

One caveat with today’s announcement is that there may still be a few small patches where KCOM’s fibre network has yet to connect, such as some issues with access to apartment blocks / MDUs (e.g. the fibre is present outside but they haven’t yet got the permission / admin sorted or identified enough demand to enter the building itself).

KCOM deserve a lot of praise for what they’ve achieved, although it’s also fair to say that they are the incumbent operator for Hull and thus enjoy a unique position of power over the local market. A small number of rivals may be nipping away at their heels (e.g. MS3) but so far the operator has remained dominant.

Interestingly Macquarie Infrastructure’s bid for the operator signalled a couple of future proposals that were overlooked by most other news reports. In particular the group said they planned to increase the “amount of business with third party ISPs” (they’ll need a more attractive wholesale solution) and would “use additional investment to expand the fibre network beyond the current footprint.”

Any expansion of KCOMs fibre optic network seems likely to place them into direct competition with major national operators, such as Openreach (BT), Virgin Media, Cityfibre and Hyperoptic etc. Cracking that sort of aggressively competitive market will be much harder than the one where they currently enjoy a privileged position.

Finally, KCOM states that independent research has estimated that the total gross value added (GVA) to the regional business economy from their rollout is worth over £469m since the project began (i.e. £234m in extra GVA to the Hull and East Yorkshire economy and £204m in salaries of additional staff employed in local businesses whose growth has been attributable to Lightstream).

Small businesses run from home are also said to have benefited from in excess of £1 million in additional revenues, but remember to take such predictions with a pinch of salt; it’s extremely difficult to make accurate models for the economic impact of faster broadband speeds.

NOTE: Most of the funding for Lightstream stemmed from KCOM’s £90m 2015 sale of their national UK (excluding East Yorkshire) fibre optic and cable duct assets to Cityfibre (here), which went on to make good use of their old fibre (here).

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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.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Linda birks

    Bad enough living in Hull without having the most expensive Wi-Fi in the country

    • Avatar John

      Excuse me while I poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick.

      Interesting to hear WiFi is expensive in Hull.

      How much does broadband cost?

    • Avatar Jake4

      I do agree with Kcom being expensive, £40pm for the cheapest package (30d/15u) but atleast it’s nearly all covered with FTTP.

  2. Avatar Marc

    I live in a high rise block I went through and asked every one in the block if they want fibre installed in the building the overall consensus was a resounding yes but I called kcom and they said that there still isn’t enough people wanting it installed for them to see it a viable option to install it

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