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Cityfibre Confirm 62 UK Areas for £4bn FTTH Broadband Rollout

Friday, March 6th, 2020 (7:43 am) - Score 12,516

Full fibre builder Cityfibre has today confirmed that an additional 36 UK cities and towns have been added to their 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband roll-out programme (total of 62), which working with ISPs like Vodafone and TalkTalk aims to eventually cover 8 million premises by 2025 or a bit later.

In case anybody has forgotten, Cityfibre’s project originally started in late 2018 (here) – supported by UK ISP partner Vodafone and substantial investment from Goldman Sachs – with a plan to spend £2.5bn on deploying their 1Gbps FTTH network to reach a “minimum” of 1 million homes and businesses across 12 cities and towns by the end of 2021 (c.£500m Phase One), then 5 million premises in 37 cities and towns by the end of 2025 (c.20% of the current UK broadband market).

NOTE: Cityfibre aim to cover 85%+ of premises in each location on their list. Most of their builds are based off existing Dark Fibre networks, which until now were often only used to serve public sector and business sites.

Since then the operator has been busy ramping-up their civil engineering build across their Phase One cities. On top of that they recently spent £200m (cash) to acquired TalkTalk’s FibreNation network (here), which had already largely covered the city of York (c.50,000 premises) and was busy deploying to several large towns (Dewsbury, Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon).

As a result of the above deal Cityfibre raised their planned investment to £4bn and aims to reach 8 million UK premises (c.30% of the market). Vodafone has also relaxed their exclusivity deal (they now get 12 months in each location) so that TalkTalk and other UK ISPs can hop onto the new network (Sky Broadband also exists but only under the FibreNation footprint – pending talks).

The recent changes have meant that the operator needed to update their plans and today’s announcement represents the next phase of that process. Essentially Cityfibre has added another 36 cities and towns to their confirmed roll-out plan (many more will be added in the future), which brings the total number of confirmed roll-out locations so far to 62 (reflecting 5 million homes).

NOTE: Cityfibre has suggested that, outside London, their plans may eventually require up to 7,000 engineers.

Greg Mesch, CEO at Cityfibre, said:

“Britain’s need for a world-class digital infrastructure has never been greater which is why we stand firmly behind the Government’s plan for nationwide coverage by 2025. Full fibre will play a critical role in levelling-up the UK and so today we are accelerating our plans, bringing full fibre to more towns and cities, even faster.”

Oliver Dowden MP, DCMS Secretary of State, said:

“We want to make sure every corner of the country benefits from world-class, gigabit speed broadband, so it is great to see CityFibre expanding out into 36 more towns and cities.

We are working closely with industry to push ahead with nationwide rollout and investing £5 billion so the hardest-to-reach areas aren’t left behind.”

A related process is now underway to award £1.5bn in new construction contracts by the summer 2020 (finding enough skilled engineers is a particularly difficult job these days) and network build is being brought forward in the “vast majority of these towns and cities” to start the end of the year. At present Cityfibre has network construction underway in 16 towns and cities, with Gigabit-speed services live in 11.

However Cityfibre’s effort has also come under increasing pressure from rivals. On the one hand we have Virgin Media, which is in the process of upgrading their existing network to offer 1Gbps speeds and that is due to complete by 2021 (here). On the other hand we have Openreach’s (BT) ambition to make FTTP available to 15 million premises by around 2025.

Not to mention lots of alternative network providers, such as Hyperoptic, G.Network and others that are building in some of the same urban areas. A few of these may overbuild Cityfibre’s new network, although they all have different pros and cons. Suffice to say that there’s plenty of competition, although that will also make it harder for some operators to attract subscribers on to specific networks (expect winners and losers from this race).

At the time of writing Vodafone still offers the only related Gigafast Broadband packages on Cityfibre’s network for homes, which is priced from £28 per month for an unlimited 100Mbps (symmetric speed) service on an 18 month contract, including free installation (you also get a good wireless router). The plans rise to £40 per month for their top 900Mbps (Gigabit) tier and we’re currently waiting to see TalkTalk’s package.

New towns and cities announced for full fibre deployment (36):

• Barnsley
• Bath
• Blackpool
• Bognor Regis
• Bracknell
• Brighton & Hove
• Bury St Edmunds (£8m)
• Chatham
• Cheltenham
• Chester
• Chichester
• Christchurch
• Crawley
• Dundee
• Eastbourne
• Gateshead
• Gillingham
• Glasgow
• Gloucester
• Halifax
• Horsham
• Littlehampton
• Maidenhead
• Middlesbrough
• Norwich (£50m) c.100,000 premises (2.5 year roll-out – starting end of 2020)
• Nottingham
• Poole
• Portsmouth (£32m)
• Preston
• Reading
• Sheffield
• Solihull
• Stoke on Trent
• Weston-super-Mare
• Wolverhampton
• Worcester

Towns and cities previously announced (26):

• Aberdeen (£40m)
• Adur & Worthing (£25m)
• Batley – 6,000 premises by end of 2022
• Bournemouth (£38m) – Also owns a legacy FTTH network to c.20k premises
• Bradford
• Cambridge (£20m) – c.60,000 premises
• Coventry (£60m)
• Derby (£45m)
• Dewsbury – 61,000 premises by end of 2022
• Doncaster (£25m)
• Edinburgh (£100m)
• Huddersfield (£30m)
• Inverness (£20m)
• Ipswich (£24m)
• Leeds (£120m)
• Leicester (£80m)
• Lowestoft (£14m)
• Milton Keynes (£40m)
• Newcastle-upon-Tyne (£50m) – c.103,000 premises
• Northampton (£40m)
• Peterborough (£30m)
• Rotherham
• Slough
• Southend (£35m) – c.100,000 premises
• Stirling (£10m)
• Swindon

At this point our eagle-eyed readers might notice that a few locations are missing from the list that Cityfibre originally announced in 2018, including Bristol, Harrogate, Manchester, Southampton and Wakefield. Quite why all of these weren’t confirmed today is unclear, but we can guess at some of the reasons and they may be confirmed in future updates (we eventually expect about 100 cities and towns to be included).

For example, Harrogate, York, Knaresborough and Ripon all come under the FibreNation network and the merger of that is on-going (i.e. we should see those three confirmed in the future). Admittedly Dewsbury also belongs in that club, but Cityfibre had already confirmed that location last year and so they couldn’t very well remove it this time around.

We’re less certain why Bristol, Manchester, Southampton and Wakefield have been missed off the list, although some of those already have three Gigabit broadband providers building (e.g. in Southampton there’s toob, Virgin Media and Openreach). Realistically it is significantly more difficult for a fourth altnet provider to enter an area with that many players already present.

UPDATE 8:41am

A little bit of related news has just come in. VolkerSmart Technologies (VolkerHighways) has just secured the £24m civil engineering contract to build Cityfibre’s FTTH network in Ipswich, which they said would be completed by the autumn of 2022. The works will include excavating 300,000 metres of new trenches around the town and installing ducting, before blowing, splicing and finally testing the fibre optic cables.

UPDATE 9:33am

We have sought a bit of clarification from Cityfibre on a few of their targets. Apparently the initial expectation is still to cover at least 1 million premises by the end of 2021, while they hope to have “substantially completed” the 8 million by the end of 2025 (i.e. the roll-out may go on for longer than 2025, depending upon how they define “substantially“).

In addition, they confirmed that Harrogate, York, Knaresborough and Ripon have not yet been added to the plan as the FibreNation deal has yet to formally complete, but we can expect that by around the end of this month.

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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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37 Responses
  1. Avatar EM

    I read this and many similar article and I always wonder the strategy behind some of these companies. For example in Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Reading there are many other FTTH / FFTP players. I also know that different operators might focus in different areas in that city, yet what i don’t understand is how they don’t go after markets where there is no competition.

    For example I don’t see much activity at all in Buckinghamshire, is that because the council have to much of a red tape?

    • Avatar Harry

      Ikr I live in city called lincoln not one, 1gb internet ISP over here yet.
      But few around the county

    • The more dense the urban area, the more chance that it can sustain up to 3-4 gigabit capable broadband operators (so says the government and I’d agree). Right now competition is aggressive and everybody is also trying to chase a first mover advantage, although so far there are only a very few areas with some overlap between 3 FTTP operators (this will grow) as they tend to start in different parts of the same cities and towns.

      “What I don’t understand is how they don’t go after markets where there is no competition.”

      The answer is that they do and many are planning exactly that, but it takes time to build so it’s not a “click your fingers and it’s done” situation. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

    • Avatar ianh

      @Mark Jackson – city fibre, bt and virgin are all building/extending on top of each other in the west of Newcastle. My guess is they hope people have no clue cityfibre/bt/virgin are coming and sign 12-24 month contracts without realising what else is on the horizon.

    • Avatar Quark999

      What kind of FTTP can you buy, right now, in Reading?

    • Avatar joe

      @Quark999 use the usual checkers to find out.

    • Avatar Quark999

      That was a rhetorical question. There are the occasional apartment blocks and new builds like everywhere in the country, but there is no blanket coverage of FTTP at all in Reading. People sometimes make it sounds like “down south” is already covered in Fibre, and there is lots of overbuild, but if you look closely NOTHING tangible has actually happened on the ground. Same in Slough – it’s been on Cityfibre’s list for ages and they have good coverage of the trading estate, but I don’t think they have done anything. And already people are concerned because it is a BT Fibre First area too – before worrying about that I’d wait for at least one of these deployments to deliver.
      Fibre-to-the-Press-Release all over.

    • Avatar John

      Almost blanket Virgin coverage.
      Lots of Hyperoptic in the city centre.
      Just announced by CityFibre.
      A fair bit of OpenReach G.Fast.
      Ok the last 1 was a bit of a joke.

      I know many who would envy Readings coverage.

  2. Avatar Mark

    Yay my area is finally on the list I have been hoping it made it here since we have almost all surrounding areas in the rollout schedule

  3. Avatar Meadmodj

    All good other than only an 85% aspiration.

  4. Avatar Somerset

    Weston-super-Mare is interesting as VM are busy putting in fibre duct to every property. CF have a single duct route round the town they took over some years ago that links schools.

  5. Avatar SimonR

    They’ve been doing my area for a year or so and have stopped at the end of my road. Looking at the roadworks website it appears that they’re having to go back to previous areas and tidy up / make good.

    I hope the engineers they hire for the new areas get it right first time.

  6. Avatar Alex Hunt

    5m from my door in Milton Keynes – installed middle of last year – still cant get it! 🙁

  7. Avatar russ

    its a shame many companies are focusing on Bracknell and reading rather than the areas inbetween these two towns. unfortunately my own area has just had BDUK funding removed as openreach say my line is technically capable of 31mb, but having never gone above 22mb in reality im disappointed superfast Berkshire are saying my area is fine even though 100m down the road has 1gb fttp lines now. hoping the little towns get some fttp sooner than later.

    • Avatar Philip Cheeseman

      Its exactly the same down near Southampton. According to Openreach and the local governement broadband project I get 37Mbps. I actually get 20~22Mbps. As the computer says I can get 37Mbps I am considered superfast according to official figures and not in need of help. I wonder how many more of us there are… (At least you have some FTTP in the area – my area has two properties next to the exchange wired up – FTTPoD for local business I suspect. Nothing else.)

  8. Avatar Ryan

    I live close to Brighton and only have FTTC with no sign of FTTP meanwhile Brighton already has:

    G Fast
    Virgin Media

    In the next few years it will get:
    FTTP via BT
    1GB via Virgin
    CityFiber

    I get they are a bigger city but surely the market can’t be there for all this when if they moved slightly further afield Cityfiber would have zero competition as we have no FTTP planned so would clean up so to speak.

    • Avatar James Band

      I know what you mean.

      I feel like if CityFibre rolled out FTTP to rural areas where there is demand, contrary to what BT or whoever will claim, then they would clean up.

      If people could move from ADSL to FTTP they would in a heartbeat. I can see Openreach just upgraded my line to FTTP (up to 1000) after 10 years of being told “it’s 6 months away” on every engineer visit for the atrocious ADSL. If CityFibre came here now, I would sign up to the Vodafone Gigafast product right away. Like you, they seem to have delivered CityFibre connectivity to the nearby city, but not beyond its borders.

    • Avatar Ryan

      I agree we are not a small town either (20,000 houses) so surely there must be a market for us.

      If one provider came in I can see them taking a large % off BT but for some reason we are universally ignored.

      Enjoy the FTTP I am very jealous

    • Avatar James Band

      Ryan

      The DSL checker shows it as available, but unsure whether BT etc will offer a reasonable package. Have had to rely on 4G internet for last few years as the copper landline is beyond frustratingly awful.

      If CityFibre delivered FTTP to rural or the supposed “hard to reach” areas, then pretty sure Vodafone would clean house like you said. I can’t understand how Vodafone are doing FTTP 900/900 for £40-48, yet BT want to charge people £50 for 330 today, and according to some people here, the wholesale price by BT Wholesale is already higher than the consumer price on CityFibre?!

      Right now, we’re about 40 miles outside one of the closest “CityFibre cities”. Though have been told by Vodafone the delivery of FTTP is “very soon” (which doesn’t quite compute). Don’t know about Openreach FTTP though. It’s suddenly become available on the DSL checker. But nevertheless, that presents two questions:
      1. Why is the pricing seemingly ridiculous?
      2. Why then are CityFibre not delivering FTTP to this area?!

      If any FTTP provider just built to areas which don’t have fibre, or rural, then they’d have customers lining up.

    • Avatar CarlT

      CityFibre are building out from their existing networks in large towns and cities.

      Several kilometres of digging to reach additional towns and cities is expensive.

      They make it work through having anchor tenants, usually local authorities, partner with them in towns and cities to connect public sector buildings and expand from that point.

      They use wholesale partners to transport the data outside of the local networks – they hand it off to those partners who use their own networks to get the data to where it needs to be.

      Nothing more to it than that.

  9. Avatar EM

    @Mark Jackson
    Thank you for the comment. I do agree understand that it is not a sprint, or it just happens. A lot of planning but more importantly it is to have a business case so they are covering enough to ensure that they sustain profit.

    It was my intention to point out that there has been talk for years, and we still don’t see a change beside small pockets of Gigabit enabled households.

    For example there was a company proposing a more cost effective solution using sewers, what happens to them because that infrastructure is already there.

    Again thank you for your feedback.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      I do not want my router in the toilet. Installation was too complicated and costly. It was in Bournemouth.

    • Avatar FibreBubble

      From what I can make of it, the sewer firm, h2o went down the pan when 160 million pound fraud was uncovered and judge sent people to jail. Firm morphed eventually into City Fibre

  10. Avatar Matthew

    Seems Wales and Northern Ireland are lower priority.

    • Avatar Adrian

      City Fibre like anchor tenants for many of their networks. In Wales there is the PSBA which is run by BT. City Fibre have no network in Wales so not much chance of them building here.

      Also BT have already been building FTTP in cities like Cardiff and Swansea for some time. Virgin have been doing the same. So all the larger prospects have already gone.

    • Avatar CJ

      Swansea, Newport and Cardiff are all listed in Cityfibre’s 2018 report on the economic impact of full fibre, so they may still be under consideration but with lower priority if they have no existing network to build out from.

      That’s no different to Essex, where they listed several towns and cities in their report but the only one they’ve confirmed for FTTP is Southend which is also the only part of the county where they have an anchor tenant contract.

      I’m not convinced the presence of Openreach and VM will deter them. Their business model is to sign up all the major ISP’s, apart from BT and VM. They already call themselves the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform. If they succeed in becoming the default wholesale provider for big brand ISP’s, they may be able to survive alongside both BT and VM in places where a smaller altnet would struggle. Similarly they don’t seem to have a problem with Stoke where they will eventually be competing with BT, VM and VXFIBER.

  11. Avatar Dominic Davis-Foster

    I wonder whether Cityfibre will get the network built in Stoke-on-Trent before my (incompetent) council finishes its own one?

    Haven’t heard anything about that one since it was announced. Any news?

  12. Avatar Dave

    I do hope will do Fife

  13. Avatar Tyeth Gundry

    I’ve been told by TriangleNetworks in the past (and confirmed by MD at Aquiss more recently) that the cityfibre network in Bristol is exclusively partnered, and unavailable to other ISPs right now, I believe TriangleNetworks have a multiyear exclusivity agreement.
    I know that triangle have been installing business fibre (cityfibre backed) for a while, but no residential support so a real shame. I’ve asked cityfibre to confirm the end date of their exclusivity agreement but no word so far. The dates of builds indicate a 2year wait :'(

    • Avatar Tyeth Gundry

      They will install to a residential premises but you must have an existing loop very close nearby or get one funded (one business per loop is required to get it moving, as many residential as you like – they largely don’t affect Triangles feasibility decision)

    • Avatar Oliver

      A number of other providers have announced Bristol. But BT and Virgin are very active in Bristol, in fact they both launched massive marketing campaigns there recently.

      We were getting a full-fibre connection from Spectrum Internet via their own fibre but within days they told us that BT had installed FTTP and they weren’t intending to over build. But Spectrum supplied us with a 300Mb connection via Openreach. Apparently they will be able to offer 500Mb and 1Gb symmetric broadband connections via Openreach in a few months time.

      So maybe City Fibre are not going to bother overbuilding BT and Virgin in Bristol either.

  14. Avatar Tempest3K

    Just a shame Cityfibre are being shortsighted and leaving coverage holes in the York installation. Left wondering how I’ll get anything above FTTC now…

    • Avatar For better broadband

      This is indeed a huge risk. There could be holes in the larger towns and cities which will be unviable for another provider to fill.

      Some of these locations could be just as poorly served and be waiting just as long for a solution as the deeply rural properties.

      I would recommend to lobby your council as soon as possible to see if they can help persuade the providers to not have any gaps.

      Infrastructure providers need to have councils onboard for all the civils works so there is more of a chance that Councils can persuade these providers while they are building. Once the Altnets have finished building, they will be gone.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Is it shortsightedness or are there valid operational reasons to not deploy to 100% of an area?

      They’re working to a budget after all.

    • Avatar Yorkiebar99

      Depends where you are but CF are coming back around Fulford Fishergate and the top end of Clifton next month.

  15. Avatar Bristol

    Really was hoping they would do bristol

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