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Upp Connect First Full Fibre Users in 1 Million UK Premises Rollout

Thursday, September 16th, 2021 (8:25 am) - Score 1,632
Upp-Engineer-on-Top-of-FTTP-Pole

Broadband ISP and network builder Upp, which earlier this year unveiled a £1bn plan to deploy a new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across 1 million premises in Eastern England by 2025 (here), has announced that they’ve just connected their first customers and revealed more details about their rollout plan.

The original announcement stated that Upp’s contractors (none were named) were already building in towns across Norfolk and Lincolnshire in England, although at the time they declined to name any of them. But today’s update confirms that Stamford (Lincolnshire) and Diss (Norfolk) are the first towns to benefit from their substantial investment in new fibre.

NOTE: The £1bn, which includes c.£300m in equity and the rest as debt, is supported by investment firm LetterOne, the management team, and the Board of Directors.

The operator, which expects to create a total of 600 new jobs and is being supported by several technology suppliers (Nokia, Linksys, Fujikura and Salesforce.com), has also confirmed that their initial build will target around 50 towns (c.300,000 homes) in the two counties by the end of 2022.

Further towns are due to be announced in the “coming weeks” as they become available for service, which Upp’s CEO, Drew Ritchie, refreshingly said was in keeping with their principles of “do” and then “say.” On the other hand, this does make it a little more challenging for consumers to figure out whether Upp will be an ISP choice that they can plan to take in the future (necessary when considering long contract terms during ISP switches).

Upp has also employed its own local field engineers to carry out installations and maintenance, although as mention earlier, they’ll still need to work with some contractors in order to achieve those coverage targets (i.e. it takes a long time to properly train up a fibre engineer). But they’ll also be running fibre through Openreach’s existing cable ducts and over poles (PIA), which helps to speed things up.

Eryl Stafford, COO at Upp, said:

“Connecting the first customers to our service in both Stamford and Diss marks a major milestone in our build journey. Over the last 6 months we have built long-haul DWDM backbone capacity into the region from our presence in London, where we have established peering and transit agreements for long term control of the quality and cost for our ISP service.

We have already built a number of points of presence (PoP) sites in market towns across the East of England with more in development. Our highly experienced contract partners continue to build our dense local footprints from these PoPs, allowing customers to be connected in a matter of hours.

Our local builds will continue throughout the autumn, enabling us to cover the 30,000 properties that we planned in 2021. The build will continue at pace and scale into 2022 and beyond.”

Going from the planned 30,000 premises passed in 2021 to 300,000 by the end of 2022 would be a truly incredible feat. Most operators need time to ramp-up their builds and secure the necessary contractors and resources, with bigger players like CityFibre only recently achieving a faster pace of build than Upp envisages, and that’s after several years of careful development. Only time will tell whether Upp can set a new standard here.

In terms of packages, Upp are currently offering both a 300Mbps and 900Mbps (symmetric speeds) product at £40 and £60 per month, respectively, across 12 months of service. The first 3 months of service are free, as well as free setup and installation. You can also expect to receive a Linksys Velop Whole Home Intelligent Mesh WiFi 6 (AX4200) router being bundled into those packages, alongside UK support.

Finally, if those two towns sound familiar, then that’s because rival full fibre builders, such as County Broadband and Lightspeed Broadband, have already named them on their own respective deployment plans. Other operators, such as B4RN, Openreach and Virgin Media, are also operating in some of the same areas where Upp may be targeting.

Suffice to say that, in a market full of growing competition at infrastructure level, Upp may find the climb a little harder than those who came before. On the other hand, they appear to have both money and an experienced team on their side, which are two very important areas to get right.

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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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