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VXFIBRE to Rollout £10m Full Fibre Broadband in Colchester UK

Thursday, February 13th, 2020 (10:01 am) - Score 1,769
Macro fiber optical cable detail isolated on white

The Colchester Borough Council (CBC) in Essex appears to be in the process of approving a proposal from Swedish operator VXFIBER, which is looking to invest £10m in order to build a new gigabit-capable “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband ISP network that will eventually cover most of the town (homes and businesses).

The new network would be designed to complement the Dark Fibre style infrastructure that is expected to be deployed as part of the town’s recently successful bid for £3.45m from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) fund (here). VX would then use this as a core skeleton network from which to expand outwards.

In order to facilitate this investment in Colchester, VX has requested access to parts of the CBC-owned Housing Revenue Account (HRA) estate on commercial terms and to develop a cooperation agreement with CBC. Colchester Amphora Trading Ltd (CATL) will act on behalf of the Council, to draw up Heads of Terms for a deal with VX that delivers the “best commercial outcomes from a joint approach to infrastructure deployment.

Assuming everything progresses well then VXFIBRE aims to begin their build phase in Q2 2020, which will initially priorities premises around Greenstead, Wivenhoe and West Mersea by the end of this year. Apparently the reason for doing this is because broadband connectivity in those areas is currently deemed to be “very poor (and we have suitably located property).”

Summary of the VXFIBRE Plan (Council Document)

Essentially, the Council is providing the core skeleton network in connecting the town centre, northern gateway and eastern side of town through the LFFN project; VX will then build out wider local connections from that network to the communities stretching further afield by locating network server equipment in secure locations, from which the network will expand outwards to customers.

The project envisages using the sheltered housing developments primarily, paying market rates for the rental of space and electricity. These installations will simultaneously provide gigabit broadband for residents and operational purposes alike, with an initial network build focussed on Enoch House in Greenstead, growing to include Heathfields House, Plum Hall, Grymes Dyke Court, Elfreda House (to site only, to facilitate future connection after the planned rebuild currently taking place as part of the Council’s £75m new housebuilding programme), Worsnop House, Fairfield Gardens, Harrison Court and Stuart Pawsey Court.

All 9 of these sites will be connected by point-to-point fibre optic links to the server room at the Town Hall, which will also co-locate the core VX network equipment on a commercially leased basis. In this way, a far larger part of the Borough will benefit from gigabit connectivity than would otherwise be made possible by the LFFN deployment alone. No major geographical part of urban Colchester will be left without the huge opportunities afforded by ultrafast broadband.

The immediate project does not increase coverage to the rural areas, where we have no suitable housing stock. However, there is a significant element of national planning on broadband infrastructure in the UK with other existing projects such as Gigaclear, Essex Superfast Phase 4 (Openreach) and County Broadband all having official allocations for the rural two-thirds of Colchester.

Rural roll-out will therefore take place (but is inevitably slower because of the more sporadic nature of settlements and the resultant distances between properties; and the scale of works involved). The roll-out of rural broadband should also accelerate this year as the rural voucher scheme will help (£3,500 per property towards the installation costs), though that is not part of the proposals herein.

The VX business case is based on securing a 40% share of the available market within 5 years. This equates to some 25,000 properties connected to the gigabit-enabling networks. This is said to “represent a transformation of the Borough’s connectivity landscape, where fewer than 2% of connections are currently gigabit-capable.”

The project sounds similar to the £19.2m deployment that VX is also conducting alongside the City of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire UK, which aims to create a publicly-owned and operated, open-access and gigabit-capable, 60 mile long full fibre broadband network with “citywide” coverage by spring 2021 (here). VX has also done similar deployments across other parts of Europe, South Africa and South-East Asia.

As such today’s news would make this VX’s second major full fibre deployment in the UK and the council claims that the operator will next target Bristol and then, later, possibly up to 7 more cities. We should remind readers that VX will not be selling directly to end users. Instead they function as a wholesale operator and any Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) services would then be provided via other ISPs.

If the work is anything like Stoke then VX’s subsidiary, LilaConnect will market, sell, install and maintain the connections from this infrastructure to residents and businesses. LilaConnect does not itself offer any services – just the connections to the network – and they have a number of approved ISPs on their list (e.g. Air Broadband, Bridge Fibre, Pure Broadband and Vonage).

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar Senn says:

    As a Wivenhoe resident this has piqued my interest. Will be fascinating to see if it actually gets to me and which ISPs I can pick from if it does.

  2. Avatar CJ says:

    Great news. Here’s hoping they prioritise the Myland part of town early in the build, it was once scheduled for infill by VM’s project lightning but that never happened.

  3. Avatar Matthew says:

    Slightly off topic but does anyone know how there rollout in Stoke is going ?

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