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ISP WightFibre Extend Full Fibre to 26,000 Isle of Wight Premises

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 864
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Broadband ISP WightFibre, which is investing around £85m to deploy a new 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across the Isle of Wight (South Coast of Hampshire, UK), has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that some 26,000 premises have now been covered, and they expect to reach 41,000 by the end of 2021.

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 but only covered around 13,000 homes (plus 4,000 already ducted).

NOTE: The premises passed figure here means those that are properly Ready for Service (RFS) – premises that have fibre to a connection point (e.g. Toby box) located at the boundary of the property or, for large buildings, internal full fibre cabling to a connection point in/outside each unit within an MDU.

However, 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, which was boosted again last year by £50m from NatWest Bank (here). The long-term goal is to achieve almost universal coverage of the island (c.70,000+ premises) by the end of 2025.

The main build for all this began slowly in 2019 and then ramped-up through 2020, albeit a bit more slowly than planned due to a number of challenges including the outbreak of COVID-19, wayleaves and a shortage of engineers (more details below). As such the roll-out programme is currently said to be running around 6 months behind schedule, but the 2025 ambition remains unchanged.

WightFibre now expects to reach their “new target” of 61,000 premises (RFS) by June 2023. A further 9,000 homes will then be added in the second half of 2023, 2024 and 2025, these being premises missed during the initial rollout due to wayleave issues and Section 58 Notices.

A WightFibre Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We have experienced a slow down in our rollout since summer 2020 caused by a shortage of construction crews as demand for construction crews outstrips supply across the UK. With the appointment of Marcus Green (ex-CityFibre) as WightFibre’s new Chief Delivery Officer new contractors are now in place and mobilisation of those contractors is well underway.

WightFibre also welcomes the appointment of Jayne Dando as the new Strategic Highways Manager at the Isle of Wight Council. This has lead to a significant improvement in the relationship with the Isle of Wight Council. The Council’s PFI contract with Island Roads remains a significant stumbling block to the speed of the rollout of our full-fibre network. All parties are working together to balance the challenges of an 80% complete road and footway renewal programme on the island with the rollout of a full-fibre network requiring circa 500-600km of trenching”.

Construction crews are currently deploying the new network across Ryde, Sandown and Ventnor (North East, East and South Wight), with work then due to start in Yarmouth and Freshwater (in West Wight) during September 2021.

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 go all the way up to £55 for 900Mbps+ on a 24-month term, which includes free installation. The top three packages also receive free WholeHome Wi-Fi (mesh system) powered by Plume. Phone and Pay TV (Netgem) services are optional add-ons.

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