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Cityfibre Nears 300,000 UK Full Fibre Premises Build Milestone

Thursday, April 16th, 2020 (11:00 am) - Score 2,631
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The latest independent data has estimated that Cityfibre’s £4bn programme, which aims to roll-out a new 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband ISP network to cover 8 million UK premises (hopes to be substantially completed by the end of 2025), has now reached a total of 279,801 premises passed.

At present Phase One of Cityfibre’s deployment has already committed upwards of £500m to cover a “minimum” of 1 million homes and businesses by the end of 2021 (here). The rollout for this started very gradually at the end of 2018 and is currently still ramping-up, albeit likely to be slowed by the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in 2020.

Since then there’s been a big change because Cityfibre recently completed the acquisition of TalkTalk’s rival FibreNation project (here), which at the time had already covered most of York and a big chunk of Dewsbury with their own Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

Sadly Cityfibre won’t tell us how many premises passed they’ve covered so far due to “commercial reasons” (other operators don’t seem to have this problem), only that they’re currently active in 20 out of the 62 UK cities and towns currently being targeted for the project (the build is eventually expected to reach 100 cities and towns, once FibreNation’s plan is fully integrated).

Thankfully Andrew over at Thinkbroadband was able to help fill in some of the blanks via his latest independent modelling, which reveals that Cityfibre has now delivered an estimated 279,801 premises passed. The figure splits down as 84,953 from the FibreNation (FN) side and 194,848 from Cityfibre.

The TBB data only includes areas where they can confirm Cityfibre’s network as being live for service, thus it’s plausible that the operator’s own internal figures may have already hit the 300,000 mark.

Cityfibre’s £4bn Project – Build Progress
February 2019 – 25,445 Premises
August 2019 – 70,748 Premises
October 2019 – 100,692 Premises
April 2020 – 279,801 Premises (194,848 excluding FN)

At the last update we estimated that, between February and August 2019, the operator had achieved a build rate of roughly 7,550 premises per month over a period of six months, which increased to approximately 15,000 premises passed per month (double the prior rate) between August and the end of October 2019.

NOTE: At present we can’t examine FN’s impact on the build pace as not enough is known about their integration into CF or recent build performance.

Excluding FN, if we only look at the build through November 2019 to April 2020 – roughly reflecting a period of five and a half months – then Cityfibre by itself has added about 94,000 premises or a build rate of c.17,000 per month (NOTE: COVID-19 may well have impacted the past four weeks).

Last October 2019 we estimated that, assuming they’d been able to start at a full build rate in 2019, then over 3 years Cityfibre would have needed to deliver c.28,000 premises per month in order to reach 1,000,000 premises in time. The fact that it takes time to ramp-up means they’ll now need to reach an even faster deployment rate in the near future and we’re still a long way from that.

The addition of FN should help to mitigate this, at least in the short term, but every operator is likely to feel some impact from the COVID-19 crisis. The Government has allowed full fibre builds to continue, but that’s less relevant if other parts of your supply and administration chain are still being slowed or have ground to a halt.

Likewise the workforce will be impacted to some degree by the lockdown (i.e. some people will be ill and need to self-isolate for longer than usual, while others will have children to monitor etc.). The looming economic crisis is another factor that could be hard to gauge, with investors likely to become more cautious. But on the upside full fibre projects remain attractive and well supported by the Government.

Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder

    That is 300k lucky people/businesses then with a gold standard connection.

  2. Avatar Andrew Ferguson

    The CityFibre Metro Network footprint does not count in the figures. Worth pointing that out.

    Hence why can say this is predominately residential premises

  3. Avatar TR-69

    Thanks Andrew for the figures, I thought they were at millions of prems passed already… clearly not, shows all the marketing works. Long way to go for next year – gl.

  4. Avatar SimonHayterUK

    Well, for the past 2 months they have been laying it down in the area I live. They currently seem to be ignoring our road for now but there’s at least 6 rounds around my area where I know the cable is in the ground and can even see the purple cable attached to telephone poles, but not a single person can order it… why?

    • The part of the network you see being built is just that, only part of the network. It can take several weeks, months and up to a year before some FTTP deployments go live. So many factors play into this. For example, in new areas the street works might begin before the necessary local data centre is fully established or backhaul capacity arrangements connected. In other cases there may be unexpected complications, such as with power supplies or blocked ducts further along the route etc.

    • Avatar MR SIMON HAYTER

      Hi Mark, Vodafone had a PR team on Winton highstreet claiming it was active as soon as it passed ones house. I even got a promo code, and a free easter egg.

  5. Avatar Jamie Simms

    City Fibre announced nearly two years ago that they would be doing FTTH in Leicester making it a Gigabit city and covering a good section but so far only seem to have laid fibre into city centre apartments and seems very slow at doing anything.

    To me it seems very strange as Openreach have got no public plans to do FTTP in Leicester other than new builds and Virgin Gig1 is not due until late 2020 so to me commercially CityFibre could have capitalised on this and got a lot of the market signed up into contracts . Now it appears that they are doing nothing the others will catch up and even possibly get their service Live

  6. Avatar Rob

    Andrew Ferguson – could you expand on how the estimates have been produced please? Or point to material describing please. Particularly how know a premise live and how infer for surrounding premises.

    CFH did state at end of march that FN network was “nearly 60,000” rather than the ~85000 estimated. Not sure why they would downplay.

    I know this is really tough to estimate !

    • I can’t speak for Andrew here, but we have seen many occasions where Cityfibre’s service went live in an area but they didn’t then officially confirm that until a couple of months later.

      Likewise it’s not clear if the 60,000 figure was taken at the start of the year (i.e. based on when the FN deal was first agreed) and just got repeated last month, or the most recent one (FN have been building quite rapidly in Dewsbury etc.).

      Sadly checking this is problematic as Cityfibre don’t really provide many official updates on actual deployment progress, beyond saying when a build has started. TBB’s modelling also tends to be more cautious, so I doubt there’d be a big overestimate, it’s usually the opposite.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      Use of the word modelling is probably confusing in this case, since for many it means we are taking one thing and extrapolating it.

      For the coverage figures it is as simple as looking at where the providers say you can order a service or not. So nothing to do with speed tests which is what lots of people think when they contact me, or inference e.g. because postcode A has it and postcode B is nearby then its properties can order.

      There has been activity in York and Dewsbury since the FN deal.

    • Avatar Rob

      Thanks for explanation Andrew.

      Just looking at TB site article this morning on CFH which says
      “With this latest bit of live network added to the other areas the live CityFibre FTTP footprint that we have been able to find is 197,418 premises in size. ”
      (which is more in line with my expectation)

      I guess finger trouble in either the ISP review article or the TB article?

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      CityFibre selling via Gigafast 197,417
      CityFibre selling TalkTalk under FibreNation 85,076

      What is the finger problem?

    • Avatar Rob

      sorry I misunderstood the TB quote on CFH live network as meaning the combined CFH footprint including FN – rather than just the network offered through Vodafone.

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