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Cityfibre’s UK FTTP Broadband Rollout Tops 500,000 Premises

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 8,496
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For the first time Cityfibre has revealed to ISPreview.co.uk that their £4bn programme, which is deploying a new gigabit-capable (1000Mbps+) Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network to 30% of UK homes and businesses over the next few years, has now reached a total of over 500,000 premises passed.

The operator is currently working to invest £4bn (here and here) in order to deploy their FTTP network to cover around 1 million premises by the end of 2021, and then 8 million across 100+ cities and towns (c.30% of the UK), although the latter target isn’t expected to be “substantially completed” until the end of 2025 (depending upon how they define substantially).

NOTE: Cityfibre is being supported by various ISPs, such as Vodafone (Gigafast Broadband), TalkTalk, Zen Internet and many others, but they aren’t all live or available in every covered location yet. The operator usually aims to cover 85%+ of premises in each town or city they target.

Despite some disruption from COVID-19, the past year was still a busy one for Cityfibre as they ramped-up their build and added many new locations to their rollout plan. On top of that they’ve also added lots of new retail ISPs to the wholesale side of their network (total of 14 so far). Suffice to say that now is a good time for us to look at how much build progress has been made on the road toward their first target at the end of this year.

Until now we’ve usually only had independent estimates of coverage to examine, but we’ve now been officially told that their network build has gone above half a million premises passed (we understand that this figure covers completed builds, not unfinished or part-built ones).

So far some 66 of their 100+ planned towns and cities have been assigned a contractor (i.e. work has started or will be starting soon) and 33 of those are already in active build, while FTTP broadband services have gone live in 27 of those (rising to 60 by the end of 2021).

Greg Mesch, CEO of Cityfibre, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Our focus over the past 12 months has been to put in place the scaling capability required to deliver on our rollout targets. I’m delighted to say we have made enormous progress and are on track to bring world-class Full Fibre infrastructure to up to 8 million premises by 2025.

In the last year we have totally transformed our organisational structure to support our growth, nearly doubling our employees and bolstering our management team with exceptional appointments bringing infrastructure finance and regulatory expertise that is second to none.

Operationally, we have so far awarded approximately £2.5 billion in construction contracts and have build underway in over 30 towns and cities. We have also brought in Bechtel to enable another step change in mobilisation, setting us up for rollouts and live services across more than 60 towns and cities by the end of 2021.

Alongside our build partners, we’re also working on an innovative training and recruitment programme that is already creating jobs and long term career prospects for thousands of people in an industry critical to the UK’s future success.

As a wholesaler, we have also focused on building out our retail customer base and have so far welcomed 10 consumer ISPs to our networks. Each of these is now able to offer market-leading gigabit services at price points that will help convert the huge demand for Full Fibre connectivity in the market.

2021 looks set to be another extraordinary year for our business, more than doubling our footprint, attracting more customers and delivering world-class communications infrastructure for the UK.”

As this is the first official figure we’ve had from Cityfibre then it’s not enough to gauge the pace of their build, but thankfully Andrew over at Thinkbroadband (TBB) has been able to help us fill-in some of the blanks via his latest independent modelling (estimate). TBB’s data only includes areas where they can confirm that Cityfibre’s network is now live for service, which can sometimes lag a short distance behind official figures.

Cityfibre’s £4bn Project – Build Progress
February 2019 – 25,445 Premises
August 2019 – 70,748 Premises
October 2019 – 100,692 Premises
October 2020 – 352,159 Premises *
January 2021 – 423,185 Premises *

* The Oct 2020 figure and onwards include the addition of FibreNation’s FTTP build (acquired for £206m from TalkTalk earlier in 2020 – c.40-50k premises).

By the looks of it Cityfibre has added another 71,026 premises to their network coverage between mid-October 2020 and mid-January 2021, which roughly reflects a three-month period or a monthly build rate of 23,675 premises passed. If that pace were to be maintained then we’d expect another 260,425 premises to be added over the next 11 months (i.e. growing the TBB total to c.700,000 premises by the end of 2021).

The catch above is that CF are still ramping-up their rollout, with new areas and contractors being confirmed or added on an almost weekly basis, and the deployment in some areas looks as if it will become significantly quicker during the first half of 2021. Suffice to say that reaching 1 million by the end of 2021 is still a viable target.

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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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38 Responses
  1. FibreAddict says:

    They passed my home a few months ago and the fibre is up the BT pole ready to go, but we have no ISP.

    I am in Derby

  2. Alen says:

    But when can we actually switch to fibre from our current broadband. IP1

    Thanks
    Alen

    1. Meadmodj says:

      For Ipswich the work started in February 2020 and is due to be completed by the autumn of 2022. They had come under criticism for road works in September 2020 in West Ipswich along the Norwich Road corridor so that appears to be the current focus. They will then move to East Ipswich this year. Exact coverage is unknown but they were targeting around 70,000 properties including Kesgrave, Martlesham, and Pinewood. Those on the outskirts may still be in for a long wait.

    2. A_Builder says:

      You have got to chuckle about CF doing Martlesham

      OK it is about 1km away from Martlesham Heath but even so….

    3. Rich says:

      But they don’t seem to have made any of Ipswich live yet, are they waiting until the build is 100% complete?!

  3. Jamie Simms says:

    They have been busy in Leicester since September and have covered a number of areas in the East of the city and now doing the North side but at present none of the network is live and available to order yet.

    I assume that before they do their launch in Leicester they want to be able to say they have all sides of the city done

    1. Resonate says:

      I seen them on my street in Syston the other week. I did speak to them and they reopen I would be able to order in 6 weeks from then. Question is what ISP?

    2. Leics Fox says:

      @resonate you saw them in Syston? I hope they’re doing all of Syston! I need to change from Virgin ASAP

  4. Gavin says:

    They are doing well considering they have started from scratch. They are only about 15,000 properties per month behind OR. Hopefully in 2021 we will see them continue to increase pace.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      In Crawley they are using OR PIA. They appear to be using OR duct to get fibre capacity out to a their new FTTP Aggregation point (street cabinet) and then laying their own duct to OR poles. Where there is no OH they appear to be creating their own footway boxes and then channelling out themselves to create POPs outside each house. On some houses the OH feed is to the back of the house so they are following current OR access practice.

      My view is they will release Langley Green area once operational and not wait until other estates are complete.

    2. John says:

      “They are doing well considering they have started from scratch. They are only about 15,000 properties per month behind OR.”

      Where are you getting those figures for OpenReach? They are incorrect.

      I think you are comparing CityFibres monthly figures with OpenReach’s weekly figures.

      CityFibre monthly build rate is 23,675

      OpenReach did 145,546 properties in November/December figures
      OpenReach did 117,483 in December/January figures, according to ThinkBroadbands coverage.

    3. Gavin says:

      @John – you are right.

      I was going off old figures. On this occasion I’m glad I was wrong. I didn’t realise OR was doing so many per month.

      My main hope still stands that now CF have more contractors in place their rollout plans will increase in pace. They are doing well so far. But also still a long way to catch up to OR.

  5. Anthony Goodman says:

    It would be useful if we could possibly have a confirmatory news story over how long after they lay the wires in your area you can actually sign up and get it. As this seems to be the main question everyone wants to know (including myself) and yet there is nothing I can see answering this anywhere

    1. Mark says:

      I would like to know this, city fibre just started in my area and have been doing work close by something like half a mile away and I’m eager to switch from virgin media

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Visibility of likely FTTP coverage would be great. Only OR are more open with maps but that is still at high level and timescales are 2023.

      Consumers are making investment decisions and others considering buying homes. My view is still that Ofcom should insist on notification of plans for the next 12 months, rolling and ideally down to premise level as some homes may be left out or postponed.

      The current hesitancy is likely because the providers do not then want to be held to it if circumstances change whether supply, installation, resource or commercial. Altnets in particular want good press not bad. But at least indicative timescales would be appreciated.

    3. CarlT says:

      CityFibre are building at about 1/5th the place Openreach are.

      They put forward planning works in in Morley, Leeds, and before they had a single premises live Openreach had enabled nearly every premises in the exchange area.

      It is not viable for altnets to announce plans 12 months in advance.

    4. Meadmodj says:

      I am not referring to what is or can be advertised. These are commercial companies. I am referring to Ofcom, DCMS and Government.

  6. A Party says:

    How are they defining a home passed. Does it mean an ONT in the house (I guess not)? Is it as generous as the Openreach definition (fibre somehow near a house….)?

    1. Andrew Ferguson says:

      ONT in the home internationally is called take-up

      Passed is internationally recognised, as in fibre to final drop point point in street.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      To be clear though “passed” does not necessarily mean that service is available to order by all POPs. The network provider may only have a network design coverage of say 50% based on their original forecast demand (varies on potential competition and consumer/business). It is assumed that as take-up demand increases a network provider will supplement the capacity (as inferred by the over stated Ofcom figures) but that is not always the case as I have found personally with VM. It is not simply what the percentage of customersthat can be connected from the street but in future the bandwidth available to support higher speeds.

      A commercial operator may choose to have say 40% market share on higher revenue products maximising their return than say 80% on low revenue products (depending on the uplift investment in that area). These are commercial companies and they have the right to do what they want but we need to understand that further investment, when a location becomes exhausted, is unlikely to be triggered by individual customer orders.

    3. CarlT says:

      POP = Point of Presence. Not sure of relevance.

      Premises passed usually equal those able to be connected without substantial additional work. Can mean those with a swept tee or reachable via a pole.

      Faulty ports / faults / planning issues may reduce this but not significantly enough to really matter in the grand scheme.

    4. Meadmodj says:

      @CarlT. I thought so too until I found that I could not order VM service again if I chose to (thought it was a data glitch). After checking only 40% of my street can now order VM services (listed as “Services Not Available in your area”). VM have only installed to a certain capacity back in 1994 and since then there have been small building developments, infills in surrounding streets and increased take-up. Current capacity appears to be exhausted. If this is happening elsewhere then it will impact the true availability and will be important to those affected.

    5. CarlT says:

      Whoever did those additional premises builds screwed up. Should be addressed as part of a Gig1 build and if not find me on Twitter or LinkedIn and I’ll let a higher up at VM know.

      Or even just mail their CEO directly.

      It’s not a normal situation and if there aren’t the ports in the cabinet can be addressed relatively cheaply, though they should have built a new one and addressed any RF power issues by splitting the optical node or increasing launch amp power or whatever.

      To be honest, though, if part of the street can order and part can’t it could also be a database problem.

    6. Meadmodj says:

      @CarlT. I have checked with VM sales. They have specifically been “Engineering – De-selected” and there are no timescales when and if they will be restored. It could be simply that commercially the business case to upgrade the main HFC cabinet and the backhaul wasn’t good enough or it could be it will be addressed if and when they upgrade Crawley to 3.1.

      My wider point I am trying to raise is that at any point in time the current Ultrafast and in the future “Gigabit Capable” reporting is based provider presence and a broad assumption that there is always capacity at each level of the network to support the various product speeds. If the reporting is currently wrong for Ultrafast then my view is it will be worse for Full Fibre because of the existing FTTP and FTTB technologies and that there is no certainty that network providers will return periodically to invest in upgrading or re-engineering their network.

      The definition of Gigabit Capable currently is defined as service delivering upto 1 Gigabit. In practice this currently is being offered as 900Mbps products.

      I know GPON and XGPON have clever bandwidth allocation algorithms so they can manage being over loaded however each still has a finite capacity which at some point either restricts the speed products that can be made available or the number of connected ONT’s. In a presentation to industry in June it was inferred that the Outside In proposals would be based on a minimum Gigabit product up speed of 500Mbps and that providers would tender at different levels of Gigabit, say 100%, 90% and 75% so it appears to acknowledge that based on cost/performance there will be variation. To achieve this in the main I am assuming XGPON (or XSGPON) and appropriate optical ratios to give us a defined service and measure.

      This will not apply to the commercial areas. We will know whether a provider has rolled out but we will not know what level of capacity they have planned for particularly if they are first generation or VM legacy.

      So when various bodies state that we will have 85% “Gigabit Capable” by 2025, what will they be including in their figures.

      My view is that we may be over stating Superfast (congested FTTC cabinets and deteriorating line plant) and my example of Ultrafast indicates that is currently overstated, then Giga will also be overstated unless capacity of the relevant technology is included in the reporting and information used by the public (such as broadband lookup) is accurate.

    7. CarlT says:

      If your definition of what may be advertised as capable is what the end to end network delivers worst case then we’d best recalibrate to somewhere between 5 and 10 Mbit capable.

      10 being an aspiration.

  7. G Mesch says:

    I think we have a bunch of ISPs coming to Derby shortly and with amazing pricing for Gig speeds. You’ll be delighted. We are moving as fast as we can to cover a huge portion of the UK with multiple national ISPs across every city.

    1. CarlT says:

      Greg: Thanks for commenting!

      What would delight me is Wakefield seeing some love. It was on the original plans but has disappeared.

      It’s also conspicuous by its absence from Openreach deployments.

      I’m sure there are issues that were found causing issues or all the available civils guys are working in Leeds and Kirklees but some love would be appreciated for those in the city who, unlike myself, don’t have access to full fibre.

      Of course if you want to PIA your way to me wouldn’t say no, either.

    2. GNewton says:

      @CarlT: “What would delight me is Wakefield seeing some love.”

      Well, you can always start another campaign, can’t you? 🙂

      This backward country’s cherry-picking approach is a disgrace!

    3. CarlT says:

      No, it’s just business. Private money being invested to try and provide a return to those investors. That’s the fiduciary duty of the company.

      A reminder to take another look never hurts. In the case of the previous campaign that second look satisfied the fiduciary duties.

  8. Andrew Skipsey says:

    Here at Giganet our address checker is live for our first Southern City, Portsmouth where we can now take orders for installation on the CityFibre circa 6,000 homes passed. Our next ‘city’ is Swindon with more to follow through the coming weeks. See home.giga.net.uk. We are £37 for 1/2 Gig and £40 for a full gig symmetrical service with free installation.

    1. Andrew Ferguson says:

      Portsmouth is a large place when looking for a cluster of 6,000 so any clues as to which district of the city?

  9. William Wilkinson says:

    This is good news for the UK. The government should incentivise/subsidise CF even further if possible. It’s a win/win for everyone. I just wish they’d come to me!

    1. Anthony Goodman says:

      Agree on this, CityFibre seem to be the only major provider taking the governments 2025 rollout pledge seriously. They are also laying out 1GB/s high speed cabling and offering it at ridiculously low pricing to entire cities meaning most people will switch to it from VDSL. You would be mad not to. Openreach and Virgin are nowhere near the high standards and low pricing CF are reaching.

    2. NE555 says:

      > CityFibre seem to be the only major provider taking the governments 2025 rollout pledge seriously … offering it at ridiculously low pricing

      CityFibre’s *ultimate ambition* is to cover no more than 30% of properties in the UK (actually 8m / 27%). Therefore, CityFibre doesn’t really have any relevance in the government’s 100% gigabit target.

      Obviously, CF choose the 30% which are cheapest to build to. That’s why they can offer it as such a low price. Openreach is not allowed to price services differently for different areas.

      Even if CityFibre gets to a particular location first, you can be sure that Openreach will come along behind – since this is low-hanging fruit for them as well.

      What CityFibre *have* achieved is to give Openreach a kick up the backside and force them to start their Fibre First rollout. For that alone, they deserve to be applauded.

  10. Dylan says:

    anyone know how long it takes until you can actually order it? work was finished in october and its still not available for me

  11. Peter S says:

    I appreciate that the wholesale market for FTTP services is complex and its great to see an infrastructure provider other than Openreach able to provide customers with a broad choice of ISP’s over their network. We look forward to their arrival in Chester.

  12. Optical says:

    Do wish CF would start work in Bath…

  13. Captain Yeehaa says:

    It would be good if they had some maps of where they plan on rolling out their services. I have to rely on the thinkbroadband map and use roadworksscotland.org to get a rough idea if they are coming to me. In Edinburgh they have 5 “patches” up from 3 last year and look like they are building out more quickly than last year.

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