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WightFibre Get £50m to Boost FTTH Broadband on Isle of Wight

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 (10:32 am) - Score 1,285
wightfibre trenching to homes fttp

Broadband ISP WightFibre, which is already investing £35m to deploy a new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband network on the Isle of Wight (South Coast of Hampshire, UK), has now extended their full fibre coverage to nearly 20,000 live premises and secured additional investment of £50m to complete their project.

Until recently the provider predominantly operated a limited Hybrid Fibre Coax (DOCSIS) based ultrafast broadband network on the island, which was similar to Virgin Media’s UK platform and covered around 13,000 homes (plus 4,000 homes already ducted). But all that began to change in 2018 after they secured a £35m investment from Infracapital (here) to help fund a major upgrade to gigabit speed “full fibre” technology.

The FTTP deployment itself began steadily ramping-up last year and is currently reaching somewhat of a peak in its deployment pace (they’ve added c.5,000 premises since the last update in March 2020 alone). As a result the ISP can now cover 28% of premises on the Isle of Wight and they expect to reach 80% by the end of 2022, followed by 96% by the end of 2025 (c.71,000 homes and businesses).

However tackling the most remote rural premises will be expensive (i.e. going from the original 80% to 96% coverage goal) and as such the operator has been busy trying to find some additional investment. The good news is that they’ve now secured additional funding of £50m from NatWest Bank (total of £85m).

John Irvine, WightFibre’s CEO, said:

WightFibre has made great progress in building the UK’s first Gigabit Island on the Isle of Wight, having already made full-fibre broadband available to nearly 20,000 premises. The additional funding announced today will enable us to connect around 96% of premises on the island, making Isle of Wight one of the most well-connected places in the world.

WightFibre’s point to point network design means every home and business on the island will receive their own dedicated fibre optic connection. This is practically unique in the UK making the Isle of Wight network not only world class but future-proof for decades to come.”

Bob Seely, MP for the Isle of Wight, said:

“I am delighted to see an Isle of Wight company secure funding at these levels despite us being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has demonstrated more than ever how essential good broadband is not just for business but for the home as well. WightFibre’s Gigabit Island project will ensure we have even better broadband provision than we currently enjoy.

The Isle of Wight is not only a great place to live and work but also a national leader both in embracing and developing technology.”

At this point some readers may remark that KCOM only needed to invest £85m in order to cover c.195,000 premises, but much of their deployment was urban focused (e.g. Hull) and so a lower average build cost would have been possible. By comparison the Isle of Wight has a lot of rural communities to consider and 71,000 premises divided by £85m works out to an average per premises build cost of c.£1,200 (seems reasonable and that’s still less than the £1,700 subsidy limit on some BDUK Phase 2 contracts).

Prices for the new service range from £21.95 per month (special offer) for their unlimited entry-level 50Mbps (symmetric speed) “full fibre” package and all the way up to £42 for 900Mbps+, which includes free installation. The top two packages also receive free WholeHome WiFi powered by Plume.

Leave a Comment
11 Responses
  1. Avatar Matthew says:

    Possibly last 4% could be tackled via a subsidy future contract as well.

    1. Avatar John Irvine says:

      Matthew, Yes, that’s the plan!

  2. Avatar Danny says:

    The price of those packages are really good.

  3. Avatar A_Builder says:

    Good news for those lucky to be able to get it.

    Keen prices too. And keen prices at the magic £1k per premises passed.

    It is an interesting point that with OR’s stated £300-400 build cost they are looking at 25-35% take up – is guess.

    So that means, with a lot of assumptions, with rural where the uptake is going to be 75% (sole provider) that the Commercial budget range is £900-1200.

    So that gets you to quite a high UK % of FTTP coverage commercially if you can touch £1k per premises passed.

    1. Avatar joe says:

      Given other commercial don’t generally use point to point their costs are obviously lower anyway.

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:

      @Joe

      True GPON style should be cheaper than point-to-point.

      Although you could argue that point-to-point is the gold standard.

      Personally I think GPON will be perfectly adequate for domestic as faster and faster GPON units become reality.

      Still it is interesting that they are going point-to-point with the higher costs – must be a reason….nobody spends money at that scale without good reason.

    3. Avatar joe says:

      A_Builder

      Yes I’d been puzzling over the P2P decisions and tbh I’m still puzzled. Yes its the Gold-S but its more expensive and the advantages may not be realised in the real world for the reasons you suggest.

    4. Avatar John Irvine says:

      The additional cost of a Point to Point network is marginal, we estimate circa 2% on build costs. WightFibre can consider this for a finite project of only around 70,000 premises. If you are deploying hundreds of thousands or millions of connections that 2% becomes much larger in absolute terms which may be why others aren’t doing it? Further, many other altnets are making extensive use of PIA using Openresch infrastructure. Deploying P2P on Openreach infrastructure is very difficult. WightFibre are making minimal use of PIA. I agree GPON is fine for the foreseeable future. For WightFibre the P2P decision is about future proofing the network for (hopefully) decades to come.

    5. Avatar A_Builder says:

      @John

      Thanks for taking the time to give us real information.

      @ 2% I can quite see why you would future proof in this way.

      Good luck with the project. Great news for your customers.

  4. Avatar Jonathan says:

    One way to get the some of the last properties would be to offer a some sort of fibre on demand, or just an excess connection cost to those properties to make them more economic. I imagine that most of the final 4% have dire broadband options now and Openreach could be years from doing anything. I would wager if you are currently on 5Mbps then decent broadband will add as much to your property value as a new kitchen or bathroom and people will spend thousands on a kitchen or bathroom, but expect broadband for free.

    1. Avatar The Facts says:

      or contact a company like Truespeed.

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