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TalkTalk Trial FTTP Broadband with Freedom Fibre in Cheshire UPDATE

Thursday, February 4th, 2021 (9:29 am) - Score 5,496
culcheth_talktalk_fttp_village_build

In a surprise development we’ve spotted that UK ISP TalkTalk has partnered up with a new network operator called Freedom Fibre, which seems set to deploy a 500Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband network across the large village of Culcheth in Warrington (Cheshire, England).

The village of Culcheth is home to a population of around 11,500 people, although like many locations it doesn’t yet have any significant coverage of gigabit-capable broadband connectivity (there’s a tiny patch of Openreach’s FTTP around Medway Road, but that’s all). However, Virgin Media’s network is widely present in the surrounding communities, although for some reason they’ve never extended into Culcheth.

Until now TalkTalk has been primarily focused on working with Cityfibre (formerly via FibreNation) and Openreach as their two main suppliers for “full fibre” broadband connectivity. But the move to link up with a third operator for the aforementioned village, particularly one that is so new and previously unknown to us, has made for quite an interesting surprise.

The development, which was highlighted to ISPreview.co.uk by LeafNWS, reveals that TalkTalk has already setup a ‘register your interest‘ style page for the project (here). “TalkTalk, in partnership with Freedom Fibre are rolling out a 100% full fibre network in Culcheth. The new network will mean you’ll get access to average broadband speeds of up to 500Mb/s, compared to the roughly 50Mb/s average in the village now,” states the page.

As for the Manchester-based Freedom Fibre, we couldn’t find a website for the operator but they do have a record on Companies House. According to that, FF was only incorporated on 9th November 2020 and their nature of business is listed as “construction of utility projects for electricity and telecommunications.” The operator was setup with a single share worth £1 and its sole Director is Neil Mcarthur.

Mr Mcarthur has a long history of working with various telecoms and technology companies, such as the Manchester Tech Trust, Nameco, Opal and many others. But most interestingly he was previously also listed as a Director of both TalkTalk Technology and TalkTalk Communications, until he resigned from both positions on 20th September 2010.

At present we can see quite a bit of telecoms work going on in Culcheth itself, but all of that is being done by Openreach (clearing blocked ducts, building new poles and spine cables etc.). Some of that could be Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) for another ISP (i.e. FF), but since the operator did announced that location as part of last year’s “rural” plan then we think it’ll be for their own FTTP (here).

All of this is occurring at around the same time as TalkTalk are only just beginning the process of accepting a £1.1bn takeover proposal from Toscafund (here). We have asked TalkTalk to comment but have yet to receive a response.

UPDATE 3:31pm

We’ve had TalkTalk’s response.

A TalkTalk spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“As part of our mission to bring full fibre to as many people as quickly as possible, and at the best possible value, we are always speaking to a whole range of FTTP builders. It’s important that consumers and business across the UK benefit from strong competition.”

We also note that the related page on their website, which we linked earlier, is now blank.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Jono says:

    Interesting. Really hope they come to neighbouring Winwick. No Virgin and people are desperate for a faster connection.

    1. Avatar Winston Smith says:

      Statista says that in 2019 almost 84% of the UK population lived in an urban environment, so it’s odd that Virgin only cover a little over 50% of households.

    2. Avatar Lexx says:

      Sure it was due to so they didn’t have to open up the network to other providers as openreach had to

      also costs a lot of money when you don’t have ducts under the ground or phone poles to access people’s houses (some areas in Runcorn that oddly have the main road green cabs and pipes to peoples houses but not actual FTTPn equipment installed and empty repeater cabs ( blueyonder area I think)

  2. Avatar Badem says:

    Also worth noting Neil McArthur was also behind FibreNation which covered Hollins Green with a similar Rural rollout before being acquired by CityFibre

  3. Avatar Barry Daniels says:

    Openreach are installing fibre in existing ducts in WA3 7JR, and have been for 2+ months. Their installation teams say the fibre should go live April 2021 for FTTP. The Talk Talk Culcheth interest registration page is not accessible for me. Talk Talk Chat service just gives this number to call 0800 496253. Openreach have posted cards to each house in the postcode asking us to “pledge” them our Gigabit Scheme voucher.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I think they’ve removed it since we posted the article.

  4. Avatar Iain says:

    Is 500 Mbps not a funny target, these days, for a FTTP network? I thought 1 Gbps was all the rage.

    Would this just be so they don’t over content a 10 Gbps uplink?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Yes I wouldn’t pay too much attention to that as the kit they install today would almost certainly end up having some 1Gbps+ capability for the future.

  5. Avatar Aron says:

    Neil McArthur has track record in comms in the local region. Being a local guy its no surprise he’s factoring Culcheth. Word on the street from Openreach ‘poles and hole’ contractors is indeed April. Interesting this comes relatively early in the UK FTTP roll out, whereas Culcheth upgraded to FTTC relatively late and completed in most part under the publically funded Connecting Cheshire program. How come the difference? Most likely the underground network is generally aged, driving down FTTC speed consistency. No such issue with FTTP. Superfast+ takeup is evidently strong and must surely drive the decision and schedules.

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