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1Gbps VXFIBER FTTP Broadband Goes Live in Stoke-on-Trent UK UPDATE

Monday, November 16th, 2020 (8:33 am) - Score 2,328
fibre optic uk network cable flay glowing 2020

The first 2,000 homes in the Staffordshire city of Stoke-on-Trent can now access one of the UK’s first part-publicly-owned open access Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP networks, which is being deployed under a £19.2m partnership between the city council and Swedish operator VXFIBER (inc. subsidiary LilaConnect).

Until recently the city – home to about 260,000 people – didn’t have much in the way of “full fibre” broadband coverage and most local premises can only get access via slower ADSL2+ or Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) services from Openreach (BT), although Virgin Media’s soon-to-be 1Gbps capable network does have good coverage around much of the city.

The new service, which began its build last October (here), aims to change that by deploying a 60-mile-long gigabit-capable FTTP network to cover 100,000 premises (“citywide“). The original announcement said it was “expected that the whole city will be covered by the network within three years” (i.e. by October 2022), although it also mentioned being “scheduled for completion by March 2021” (we suspect 2021 is just for the public sector side).

Under the agreement VXF is contracted to build and operate the infrastructure, while the city network (Stoke’s Private Optical Network) will be owned by the council. VXF have also invested their own money to extend this to cover local homes and businesses. Overall, £9.2m came from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) scheme for the Dark Fibre and public sector build, while VXF put in £10m to do the rest.

The good news is that the operator has now completed an initial build to cover 2,000 premises and the first properties have reportedly gone live in Weston Coyney, which within the next couple of months will be followed by Burslem and Bentilee.

Mikael Sandberg, Chairman of VX FIBER, said (Business Live):

“We’re thrilled to announce LilaConnect going live in Weston Coyney. Construction works on the ground across Stoke-on-Trent is progressing extremely well, and the early signs of interest has exceeded our expectations.

Access to gigabit connectivity is an integral part of 21st century living. But it’s much more than just streaming video and music or online shopping, it’s also about transforming communities with improvements such as better access to employment, education and healthcare.

I’d encourage everyone who can, to switch to the new technology and take advantage of the many benefits that full fibre brings.”

The completion of VXF’s first 2,000 premises is a big moment for the project, although they’ll obviously need to build a lot faster in order to cover everywhere else over the remaining two years. However, it’s fairly normal for an initial deployment to be slow as it will include both detailed survey work and then a ramp-up phase with contractors. In short, we expect to see much more rapid progress in 2021.

We should point out that VXFIBER’s subsidiary, LilaConnect, is the one responsible for marketing, selling, installing and maintaining the connections from this new infrastructure to residents and businesses. Lila supplies access via a number of ISPs – such as Air Broadband, Breeze Fibre and Pure Broadband.

Out of the above group only Air Broadband seem to publish any public pricing, which appears to charge £34.99 per month for a 1Gbps package on an 18-month term (plus £6.50 postage), although confusingly you then have to add £9.99 per month for the “Lila Connect fibre connection” (why they don’t present this as a single price we do not know, but the advertising watchdog tends to frown on that).

One risk here is that smaller ISPs, which in this case are relatively unknown in the wider consumer space, tend not to attract as much interest and that could hamper take-up (hence why Cityfibre wisely secured Vodafone’s support before building FTTP to homes). This wouldn’t be such a problem, but having three tiers of associated companies (VXF > Lila > ISPs) also makes it quite confusing for consumers to figure out.

UPDATE 18th Nov 2020

Netgem TV will also be offering their IPTV kit and streaming service over the VXF network from £16.99 a month and only £29 upfront (this includes their 4K set-top-box).

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. CJ says:

    One advantage they will have over the big name competition is they are installing point-to-point fibre to each property, not PON. At least according to their marketing website.

  2. Jason Smith says:

    I live in stoke and I’m looking forward to having FTTP installed. Unfortunately for VXFiber/Lilaconnect I’m hoping cityfibre gets installed into my property first because their price policy is so much simpler to understand, plus I’m already a happy vodafone broadband customer 🙂

    I also had Virgin Media around 9 months ago lay their cable on my street, the flyers seemed to suggest project lighting was being installed, but after talking to the virgin media engineer after they visited to connect a neighbour , I was disappointed to find they laid coxial instead fibre. Apparently they had a technical issue! Not to worry, I didn’t like the idea that they convert fiber to DOCSIS anyway for compability reasons with their router, what’s the point in that! all they’re doing is adding an extra layer of potential packet loss & increased latency into the mix!

    1. James Brown says:

      I agree Jason, but if as CJ says they are doing point-point then your logic may point to VXF being the best. You are lucky to have all these ISPs jostling for access to your premises! Spare a thought for us just a few miles away in Derbyshire.

  3. Paul Colclough says:

    The marketing information that I have says the £9.99 additional payment is only for people who decide they don’t wish to pay the £650 install cost. So you can either pay up front or pay monthly.

  4. Jack says:

    A little late to comment bit I’ll reference my views on this so people can see in the future… As a Stokie I don’t think they’ve thought their planning through correctly as the areas I’ve seen being layed aren’t necessarily the target demographic for FTTP deployments, they seem to be installing it in the majority of streets where elderly bungalows are and the people that live in them are the people who are happy with a basic landline phone and a basic/cheapest internet plan at a push to get banking up, news or basic social networking not the high demand streaming applications etc that a block of flats or 3 bedroom houses would demand. Once all the cabling is laid and finished I don’t see Lila or VX being the seller of these services and most likely will be sold off to one of the major companies such as Vodafone (who have a large presence in Stoke), Virgin Media or Openreach as end customers don’t necessarily go for smaller companies even if it means they’ll get gigabit speeds. Just my view on the situation anyway

  5. Jason Smith says:

    I live in stoke and this was announced 3years ago. Still not yet available and won’t be at least until 2023 in my area of basford which is just 0.7miles from there fiber exchange

    I was informed on 2 separate occasions when wanting to know an approximate date by support staff that Basford was in Newcastle and not stoke so won’t be getting it at all! I did correct them ,just hope they updated their system!

    Also there broadband checker is the worst out there, need to register an account before seeing if broadband is avaliable or not

    As a delivery driver, I see the areas they’ve started off in and similar to the above comment’s they really haven’t choose the right areas to start with.

  6. Charlie says:

    Kind of a dumb question but how will the new cables be installed?

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