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ISP Grain Name Next 8 UK Towns and Cities for 1Gbps Broadband

Thursday, January 27th, 2022 (11:19 am) - Score 6,168
Grain FTTP Engineer at Rack

Alternative broadband ISP Grain has today named the next batch of 8 UK towns and cities where they expect to build their new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network, which includes the likes of Wigan in Greater Manchester and Preston in Lancashire.

The provider, which is being supported by an equity investment of £75m from Equitix (here), has already announced deployments for parts of Hull, Leicester, Liverpool, Accrington, Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Scarborough, Carlisle, Barrow-in-Furness, Hartlepool, Newport, Sunderland and Blackburn. A further 11 locations were then added to this list at the end of last year (here).

NOTE: Some £100m in debt funding from lenders was also being discussed last year, as well as a further equity raise.

Today’s announcement brings the total number of towns and cities in their UK rollout plan to 34 and means the company is on-track to “connect hundreds of thousands of homes to their network in the coming years” (300,000 premises by 2026 is the current expectation, but this may rise).

Grain’s Latest 8 UK Towns and Cities

Birmingham – Birchfield
Plymouth – Keyham
St Helens

As with many of Grain’s existing builds, the provider seems to be knowingly choosing to deploy in some locations that are already considered to be aggressively competitive, thanks to the presence of gigabit-capable networks from rivals. No doubt they’ll be trying to undercut some of those players or, alternatively, they may also try to build into the bits that have yet to be tackled.

Tracy Karam, Grain’s Head of Customer Experience, said:

“The response from residents and businesses to what we are offering has been very positive, with many signing up to our service before work on their street has even been started.

Our service has become even more popular in recent months, as customers rely more and more on a fast, reliable and secure network for working, learning, gaming, and entertainment. We are pleased to be rolling out our offer prices to many new areas, allowing them to experience the benefits of full fibre at unbeatable prices.”

Once live, customers can expect to pay from just £25 per month for a symmetric speed 50Mbps package, which goes up to £55 for their top 900Mbps plan. All of these packages come with an 18-month minimum contract term, unlimited usage, free installation, router and a pledge to ensure “no in-contract price rises.”

Sadly, the announcement makes no mention of how many premises will be covered in each new location or over what timescale. We’d also quite like to know how many premises Grain has already covered, although their build expansion is only a few months old (prior to this they focused most of their efforts on new build home sites and were present in over 100 such developments).

Leave a Comment
20 Responses
  1. Anthony Goodman says:

    ““The response from residents and businesses to what we are offering has been very positive, with many signing up to our service before work on their street has even been started.”. I keep seeing that and think its very misleading. People aren’t signing up to their service they are giving them their postcode and house number to say inform them when the service is built in their area just like you are doing with Openreach and Cityfibre

  2. Steve says:

    This is the ISP who locks down their routers so users cannot even do something as basic as port forwarding, uses CG-NAT for ipv4 and does not use ipv6 yet. These things are really undesirable in a broadband provider so although I have signed up for alerts with Grain, unless they change these things my sign up won’t translate to a customer.

    1. Anon says:

      More signs of an undesirable provider… from the photos of their rack poorly labelled trays, selling FTTP services on the end of a 1G EAD. Would rather go with an altnet who are going to invest in decent backhaul to cabinet locations, i.e. 10G ethernet or their DWDM network, rather than cutting costs on 1G circuit and panicking later to get it upgraded.

      Network architect at Grain doesn’t look good.

    2. anonymous says:

      What indicates it’s a 1G EAD please? Thanks for the education.

    3. Anon says:

      In the photo the ADVA unit under the Mikrotik CCR is a 1G Openreach termination. Also the duplex fibre cable connecting to the Mikrotik CCR is linked at 1G.

      Can see the next is a copper 1G, presume for cabinet management or such. Then ports 3 and 4 are SFP DAC cables linked at 10G, expect these to go to their PON OLT.

    4. Connor says:

      Ah cheers, they’re coming to my area so I’ll remember not to switch to them.

    5. anonymous says:

      Thanks Anon, good spot.

    6. Dave says:

      Hey Anon, are you absolutely sure about that 1G link from openreach? What does a 10G look like? They have 4 half streets and 1 small block of flats labelled up. Imagine 2 premises per half streets and 1 in the flats, that make a hell of a lot of customers on a 1G link, paying for 300 or 500mb connections!


      Alright, that area are skin flints and on their lowest 50mb rates?! GAH what! I don’t believe it. They better not come near me.

    7. alsenior says:

      In response to Dave. That adva unit has only 1G connections on it. The 10G version is a entirely different unit.

    8. Mark Jackson says:

      The debate about the use of a 1G line doesn’t reflect the reality of how ISPs provision capacity for residential broadband services, where capacity is always “shared” (best efforts) and many of your local users may not be online at the same time, or only using a fraction of the peak speed at any given moment etc. If the ISP finds it needs to add more capacity, then it would simply order another link.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would have hoped Grain would have picked their best cabinet to use for photos. Is this just the one round the corner from their office or is this a good view on their quality?

    Assume this is a street cab? As others have said 1GE EAD into it, with badly routed cable on Openreach side and I hope that fibre to the Microtik is bend insensitive.

    The cabling is terrible, look at the grey cat5. The fibre trays badly labelled and falling to bits already? I’d be ashamed of that quality of build.

    Some of the cities they’ve announced have other altnets digging already who build their own exchanges, have carrier grade routers and modern DWDM systems to connect back from them. I guess Grain are hoping they can compete by building a much cheaper solution and hoping people don’t realise the difference before they’ve sold the network on to an unsuspecting buyer?

    They’ve got 1G backhaul and are selling 900M IP rate services – that isn’t going to end well.

    1. Bob the Network Builder says:

      I don’t work for Grain.
      But I do know the architect.
      I also design networks.
      There are countless things to factor in to building out a cab such as lead times, economics, customer demand…..
      I honestly don’t think you should try to pass judgement when you have no idea what’s going on in the background.

      If there’s one thing I’ll state quite candidly – he’s one of the finest network designers out there.

      Any ISP that doesn’t contend their services would be out of business before they started. I suggest you invest more attention in their contractual Ts&Cs than in your opinions of the cab layout.

      *IF* they don’t deliver *THEN* shoot your mouth off, not before.

  4. Zak says:

    £25 for symmetric 50Mbps? Air Broadband will be launching very soon in Preston through CityFibre’s network with the lowest package being 200Mbps symmetric for £27. They won’t be able to undercut CityFibre with those prices.

  5. El Guapo says:

    lol @ the stock photo.

    I would die of laughter if I saw an actual ISP using a Mikrotik cloud router.

    1. anonymous says:

      But it is not a stock photo! – if you open it full size you will see that is an actual Grain Rack in Carlisle, near their head office. A few mins on Google Street view would probably find it.

      Grain an altnet and ISP are indeed using Microtik cloud routers.

    2. - says:

      Not even that but a 2004 famous for their instability and even when working the performance is so poor it will struggle to fill even a couple of 10G ports IMIX with services.

      Probably much better to just shove a 10G uplink direct into the switches and use a real device back at the headend for routing given it’s only got a single uplink anyway.

    3. LULZ says:

      Ah this must have been put together by one of those world-famous internet network engineers. You know, the ones who’ve connected their PPPoE DSL modem to pfsense and are therefore now fully qualified network engineers. Except now they’re running an ISP called Grain apparently.

    4. I don't make assumptions says:

      No, actually, he used to work for an ISP with over a terabit of peering.

      I should know, I worked there with him.

  6. - says:

    1G backhaul and selling 900Mbps services? Obviously there will be statistical multiplexing (contention) on shared service, and 1G backhaul is fine for 100 or more 50Mb/100Mb/200Mb/300Mb customers but seriously.. 900Mb will be physically impossible unless they are running at less than 5-10% utilisation at peak time? Thought not.

    Also shoddy, shoddy work in that cabinet. That is terrible.

  7. An unrelated architect says:

    CGNAT is a reality for most ISP’s these days, IPv4 exhaustion isn’t going away any time soon. Mobile/4G operators make extremely heavy use of it and the reality for most ISP’s is that additional address space is scarily expensive.
    However, there are some very good implementations and some not so good, it’s the architects job to make them work as transparently as possible.

    As for IPv6, there are still plenty of hurdles, it’s pot luck as to whether different customer routers implement it properly, most we’ve tested have issues, and we still see issues with software in some of the major vendors gear too.

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