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Job Losses Strike UK Full Fibre ISP Lightspeed Broadband as Build Slows

Thursday, Apr 27th, 2023 (7:04 am) - Score 9,040
Lightspeed-Broadband-UK-Build-Map-2023

Alternative network builder and UK ISP LightSpeed Broadband, which aspires to deploy a gigabit-capable full fibre (FTTP) network to cover 1 million premises across the East of England by 2026, has confirmed to ISPreview that some of their staff have been notified of redundancies in the future.

Just to recap. LightSpeed secured an investment of £60m from the Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund in 2021 (here), which was on top of their original backing of £55m from AtmosClear Investments, Kompass Kapital and Thesaurium. The operator has since claimed to be building across parts of 32 towns, such as Boston, Bourne, Braintree, Clacton-on-Sea, Market Deeping, Skegness, Spalding, Stamford and more.

However, the provider, which previously held an initial target of covering 200,000 homes by the end of 2022, today claims that they’re “approaching 320,000 enabled premises“. But after some clarification, the provider confirmed that only 120,000 of those are considered Ready for Service (i.e. live and connectable by customers).

By comparison, the most recent independent data from Thinkbroadband suggests they’re currently sitting at somewhere around 35,000 RFS premises. Quite the gap. The bad news is that Spalding-based Lightspeed Broadband appears to have just become the latest network operator to notify their staff of potential redundancies and a slowing of their network build.

A spokesperson for LightSpeed told ISPreview:

“It’s been a fantastic 3 years and we’ve grown fast!

To date, our achievements are many and significant. We are approaching 320,000 enabled premises, just been awarded the ‘Fastest Broadband Provider’ by Broadband Genie and we have built resources to support our customers resulting in a market leading Trustpilot score of 4.8.

This is all thanks to the talent, hard work, dedication, and commitment of the LightSpeed team. We started with nothing and now have 125 employees. But it’s time for a re-organisation to reflect the fact that we are slowing the network build rate and focussing our resources on supporting our customers and launching new services.

We recognise that reorganisations are always difficult. The detailed plan is not yet complete, but it is likely that the headcount reduction will be greater than 19 staff. That requires us to go through a formal consultancy process, so that’s what we are doing. And, of course, we will support all staff as best we can.

We are undertaking these modifications because we know we can be better, stronger, and even more fit for purpose. And that will result in our customers, staff and shareholders all being better served.”

As we’ve reported before, several other builders of new full fibre networks – even some of the largest players – are currently known to be struggling due to a combination of issues, such as rising costs (build, leases etc.), aggressive competition from rivals (e.g. overbuild) and the related need to secure a viable level of take-up by consumers. All of this has a tendency to dampen the appetite of investors, slow builds and put pressure on jobs.

Residential customers of the service typically pay from £24.95 per month for a 100Mbps (symmetric speed) package on a 24-month term, which goes up to £29.96 (£39.95 after 24-months) for their top 1000Mbps tier. All packages include a wireless router, £30 one-off setup charge and a commitment for “no in-contract price rises.” Suffice to say that they’re competitively priced.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
48 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Colin says:

    Sad news, obviously things are getting tough.

    Overcrowded market, increased overheads and build costs, slow FTTP take up, interest rates rising, etc. Something’s got to give.

    With another interest rate rise expected in a couple of weeks, it will only increase the pressure, especially when there’s large debts.

    We’ve already seen redundancies at other Altnets, hundreds at Cityfibre. Bigger problems will come as the investors start pulling the plug, selling up and walking away.

    1. Avatar photo Christopher says:

      If what I’ve been told is true, then the purchase of Cityfibre by Liberty Global (owners of VMO2) is progressing.

      Obviously it’ll be some months before it’s finalised, unfortunately for the poor employees at CF, they’ll be kept in the dark and won’t know much about it until it’s happened.

    2. Avatar photo Bob says:

      Christopher, is there much strength in this statement about the city fibre VM02 merger?

    3. Avatar photo James says:

      @Bob, we’ll never know until it actually happens.

      Watch this space.

    4. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      “we’ll never know until it actually happens.”

      For VMO2 to take over CityFibre, they’d have to go through a regulatory process, so such an event will be well telegraphed and not something that’ll happen on the quiet.

    5. Avatar photo charles says:

      Well they won’t have any comp in Skegness – BT are not doing it here – and LS are my provider! 🙁

    6. Avatar photo Howard says:

      Since it was ‘accidentally’ leaked that Greg Mesch and Mike Fries had a meeting to discuss the sale/purchase of Cityfibre, it’s pretty obvious Cityfibre’s owners are looking to exit.

  2. Avatar photo John says:

    Quite the gap? More like quite the fudge

    They could just come clean and say that they were far away from the 200k… Instead they double down claiming 10x more than what they’ve actually done.

    1. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      Well, we confirmed that ages ago on ISPReview about the misleading premises-passed figures.

      Anyway, there seems to be some incompetence on the part of LightSpeed Broadband.

      1)
      They often build in areas already served by other fibre providers, hence it will result in lower takeup rates, making any ROI target difficult to be reached. This is bad for the shareholders.

      2)
      They have no proper rollout plans, it’s more like speculative announcements. I know of cases where their online checker claims ‘We’re working on it! … coming to your home soon!’ for almost 1 1/2 years. This is due to the lack of proper rollout and building plans. Running up fibre on poles, and along ducts, and then not connecting them results in a lot of wasted money and lost customers for them.

      3)
      To this very day they are unable to provide a static IP-address, it’s only CGNAT. Hence even simple things like running your own CCTV, or server, etc. won’t be possible. Whatever happened to their promise of offering static IP-addresses, see e.g. https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/11/lightspeed-broadband-list-next-fttp-rollout-towns-in-essex-and-norfolk.html#comment-254665 ?

    2. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Gnewton always the optimist as ever

    3. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      As a general rule if an altnet is actively seeking a buyer it’s probably not in the best shape, Fastman.

    4. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Gnewton

      nothing there that says there seeking a buyer Gnewton

      i know the broadband market very well having worked init for a substantial number of yearss

    5. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Fastman, if I can politely ask, what can’t you see that the rest of us can?

      The altnet market is made up of tiny little outfits, many (like Lightspeed) with no substantial corporate history, no major corporate resources for planning, financial control, no economies of scale. Lightspeed raised about £105m at a time when they had around 30 employees – a total mismatch of people resource against the money. And fast growth, that ALWAYS is painful, results in mistakes and retrenchment. All these outfits have been gifted hundreds of millions by wild eyed private equity types (the sort of people who evidently would fall for Nigerian prince fraud), the management are rushing to hit one metric and one alone, and that’s properties passed. Nothing on commercial viability, many not even caring about actual connected, paying customers. We’ve seen several altnets retrench, go bust, or be subject to distressed sale. They’re too often fighting in areas of over-build where they’re never going to be viable without massive capital writedowns, and here we see the usual warning sign of cutting jobs. That means that even with a fairly skeleton staff, they can’t pay their running costs and investors have yanked the chain and said “enough!”.

      If they’re cutting staff Lightspeed won’t have the resource to grow (money alone does not grow itself, as the first servant in the parable of the talents established some 2,000 odd years back), and if it’s losing money already and can’t grow, then the main options to the owners are to sell it or close it. They’re for sale.

    6. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Andrew G perhaps because of my unique level of expertise , knowledge of this industry and commercial understanding of this market – which is industry recognised at a a nubmer of levels

      also depends on what and where they are making the redundancies

      not sure what you bring to this

    7. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      I’m not sure if this is an indication of planning to sell, they only have so much capital to spend so its makes sense they are slowing build. The important questions are what their takeup is like and how much money they have left to finish builds. If they focus their resources on completing existing builds (the sizeable gap isn’t good) and growing takeup they can still be viable.

      Some of the altnets struggle with completing builds, your potential customers will have the most interest in signing up when you are building outside your door. If it takes a few months to become ready to order then many have forgotten or signed up to a 18/24 month contract with their current supplier.

    8. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Fastman: “nothing there that says there seeking a buyer Gnewton ”

      I never said that, please read the posts here.

      I just highlighted some of the issues Lightspeed faces and hasn’t yet resolved. With the current approach, it’s bad for the investors, and Lightspeed will loose too many prospective customers. It needs a proper management and realistic rollout plans.

    9. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Fastman:”Andrew G perhaps because of my unique level of expertise , knowledge of this industry and commercial understanding of this market – which is industry recognised at a a nubmer of levels also depends on what and where they are making the redundancies not sure what you bring to this”

      Well, I hope what I have to say doesn’t come across as your reply has. What I bring to this is perhaps several decades of experience in regulated infrastructure businesses? Personally programme managing an infrastructure capex spend across seven years of around £1.2bn at current prices? Many years of financial planning and corporate finance involvement? Years and years of undertaking due diligence on potential acquisition targets? Working for multiple successful growing companies as well as watching from inside as two major companies imploded because they focus on the urgent instead of the important – one a world leader in technology, the other a household name in services? A master’s dissertation in financial performance measurement? I think I’m amply qualified to pass comment, and I’ll let others pass judgement on your implied ad-hominem.

      If your “unique level of expertise” qualifies you to tell the rest of the world that the altnets can defy financial gravity then I suppose that would indeed make it unique. If you really have commercial understanding of the market, you’d recognise that if (as is the case) Virgin Media aren’t anywhere near covering their cost of capital, and haven’t been for many years in fact EVER, then the prospects for altnet minnows getting a return on new build is negligible. The financial maths is basic and brutal. A few will survive, most won’t, many if not most of the investors have an outlook that is short term and speculative, and without singling out any particular company, the management of most altnets is weak – there simply isn’t enough experience to go round the 120 odd active altnet builders. That incidentally was a key learning on my capital programme management days – there’s a finite limit to how much you can accelerate spend programmes, there’s very long term limits on most key resources, equipment, skills, and contractors, and you’re always competing with other programmes outside the sector for many of those resources. When you start trying to go beyond what’s feasible to meet demanding expectations eg from investors, that’s when companies start making up the numbers or re-defining what KPI’s mean (see Reality Bites comment on this topic). Personal experience in a different sectors was even watching fraud take place to “meet investor expectations”, and when I say fraud, I mean SFO involvement. Or simply waste, rather than fraud – assets constructed to meet the push to invest that were built and put on the balance sheet but never needed or actually went live. And when there’s pressure on resources, what happens is costs rise, and the original business plan goes to pot.

      It would be nice if there were a financially viable future for all the altnets, and we’d all be getting bi-directional 1 Gbps connections for £30 a month with great customer service, I assure you I’d love that outcome, but it’s not possible. We have already seen the early signs, sooner or later it will be altnetmageddon. The best we can hope for is that somebody competent and independent of OR and VM acts as a consolidator, buys up the assets for a song if they do fail, and continues to offer a service to those who use the altnets. And hope that our pension funds weren’t the investors who’ll take a haircut on the capital they put in.

    10. Avatar photo Ben says:

      @Andrew

      It would be really interesting to see a table of alt net announcements and the numbers you have determined. Obviously there will be some understandable lag but it should be reasonably clear who is telling the truth!

    11. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      @Ben: Of course! Which numbers are you wanting to see evidenced? More than happy to debate all of the themes I’ve raised provide evidence or explanation.

      In terms of the Lightspeed employees and capital raised, they are matters of public record, via Companies House and press releases from multiple sources that a web search will raise.

    12. Avatar photo Ben says:

      @Andrew

      Homes passed announced and what your data shows

    13. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      I’m not touting a data set of my own, simply what’s publicly available, But if you scroll down to the post by Reality Bytes you’ll find some relevant comments. The problem here is that Lightspeed seem to be chalking up numbers that nobody else recognises, rather like me competing in the 100 metres hurdles, and then declaring I’ve run the gold in the “sprinted high jump (1.5 metres height)” class with a record breaking 1.52m jump.

  3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    “320 000 enabled premesis” – anyone know what they mean by enabled premises? I’d assume fibre built but awaiting OLT or backhaul but given the gap between 320k enabled and 120k ready for service I’m expecting a lot more needs to be done

    1. Avatar photo Patrick says:

      Maybe they counted the number of homes in all the pins in the map?

    2. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      I have no idea but it’s neither an accurate industry definition or an accurate use of the English language. They seem to want to avoid using the industry standard ‘premises passed’ and it seems obvious why.

    3. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      120,000 premises ready from service IS approaching 320,000 enabled premises. Approaching from a very long way away.

  4. Avatar photo Anon says:

    There was too much money going into bad companies a couple of years ago. These guys haven’t built much, so they probably haven’t spent all that money! They’ll sack most of their staff and then look to flog the business to someone who wants to build in that area. I think someone (maybe it was Mark) posted that they were completely overbuilt – so they probably can’t get customers – makes sense to sell or combine with a larger business that can sell services.

  5. Avatar photo David says:

    What’s happening with fibre deployment now is complete madness. In our town (Banbury) Openreach have been installing fibre over the last 2 years and this we now have Swish Fibre doing the same thing. You do not need 2 lots of infrastructure to do the same thing. How they think they’re going to make a profit is quite frankly beyond me.

    1. Avatar photo Just Cycling says:

      My elderly mother has had 4 separate companies install fibre on her road since 2020 incl OR, VM and two Altnets.

      Great choice but quite an overbuild

    2. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      We’ve 4 mobile networks, David. If done right building own infrastructure allows more innovative products than Openreach offer at more competitive pricing.

      If done badly, of course, it’s a disaster.

    3. Avatar photo Paul says:

      @Reality Bytes

      You can easily have 4 mobile networks serving one house of 4 residents, with each resident using a different network.

      But generally one house will only have one FTTP connection.

    4. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      Why have 4 mobile networks with infrastructure being replicated 3 times over when you could just have the one network with everyone using it, Paul? What each property might use at once not really the point, the point is more about being beholden to what a network operator chooses to offer.

      If Openreach were dark, point to point fibre it’d be a similar case to gas and electricity but while they’re bitstream network operators may want to sell services Openreach don’t offer and the only way to do that is to build your own network. Openreach are a part of BT Group and, regardless of what they may claim, that is always going to factor into their products as the rest of BT Group are their largest customer. See the ongoing protectionism of leased line revenues.

    5. Avatar photo charles says:

      My street was left out of even g.fast so we had 45mbps now we have Lightspeed and it’s awesome I hope it stays around.

  6. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

    ‘However, the provider, which previously held an initial target of covering 200,000 homes by the end of 2022, today claims that they’re “approaching 320,000 enabled premises“. But after some clarification, the provider confirmed that only 120,000 of those are considered Ready for Service (i.e. live and connectable by customers).’

    Nope. Nope, nope and nope again.

    If you’re a wholesaler and a wholesale customer is able to connect to your network and, once connected appropriately, connect customers with no more than a drop cable the premises is passed.

    If you’re a retailer and the network operator you must be able to connect customers with no more than a drop cable to describe a premises as passed.

    There is no ‘enabled premises’ number, that’s not a thing.

    Premises RFS and passed should be the same thing, with the only difference being a wholesaler can consider it passed and RFS if their wholesale customers can reach end users by paying for interconnect, while a combined outfit or a retailer may only state it’s RFS/passed if they can connect the customer with a drop. Both require end-to-end light, one also requires the relevant path from the OLT to the Internet via the service provider.

    If it’s not lit it’s not RFS. If it’s not RFS it’s not passed. If it’s not passed it’s not enabled. These guys seem to be using ‘enabled’ instead of ‘in progress’.

    Let’s not redefine long standing terms again, and certainly not the dictionary, shall we?

    1. Avatar photo James says:

      @Reality Bytes…

      Well said.

  7. Avatar photo Chayne says:

    I’ve geniuinly lost all hope for Lightspeed. I live on a pretty main road, and one of the first that they run their trunks lines down. This was over a year and a half ago already. Excuse of excuse, I’ve given up trying to get any sort of service from them

    1. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      Yours is not an isolated incidence. These speculative announcements, combined with a lack of proper rollout and building plans, has caused this. More honesty on the part of the altnets, including LightSpeed Broadband, is needed!

  8. Avatar photo Eccles says:

    In Braintree Lightspeed rocked up late to the party. We already have Gigaclear across the whole town. People’s Fibre tried here and failed and were bought by Swish. Openreach are building in various areas around the town and Virgin O2 have just started work here as well. County Broadband are also building in the surrounding rural areas.

  9. Avatar photo Bob says:

    It is typical of all Alt nets and Openreach. They make lots of promises but fail to deliver There is gross exaggeration of how many premises are actually able to get their services

  10. Avatar photo Jason says:

    Lightspeed caused so much damage in my town that the local community came together to make a point of not using their services as a penalty

    1. Avatar photo AnthonyB says:

      Jason what town was that!! Was that all organised through Social media

  11. Avatar photo Harwich says:

    Living in Harwich I’m disappointed that Lightspeed have been “coming soon” for a year and a half. They have no competition and could have cleaned up here but they focussed on areas like Clacton with other competitors on the ground. They said a team of people were working on static/dynamic IPs as a priority six months ago, if that was the truth then they’d have been offering them by now. At this point the only good thing is it may have prompted Openreach to try to beat them here, as they’re doing a lot of fibre work now. I’ll go with anyone other than Lightspeed if I get the choice due to their struggles with telling the truth re: rollout timescale and IP’s.

    1. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      There are already a number of estates, or roads, in the Harwich/Dovercourt areas served by an Openreach-based fibre, and according to the roadworks.org, Openreach has become quite busy doing fibre builds in that area.

      As regards Clacton: Lightspeed has pretty much lost the battle there for a decent market share, or takeup rates, because other fibre providers beat them in the race. Lightspeed could still be competitive in Frinton or Walton, if it ever got its act together.

      BTW.: You could easily add a static IP-address, even when on a CGNAT, via a VPN like NordVPN or via a 3rd-party L2TP service, like the one from AAISP. But this would of course add to the monthly costs, and you as well then go for another fibre ISP altogether.

    2. Avatar photo Harwich says:

      GNewton, true but Openreach have only got themselves in to most of the roads they’re in quite recently here. When I checked the broadband map a few months ago they were only in a handful of streets with just a few properties served. Their vans are all over the place now doing work most days and I do believe that’s because they want to compete with Lightspeed whose contractors are also working most days. I have a VPN but running all traffic through it would create a bottleneck and I’d see no benefit from the gigabit speeds I’d be paying for. I looked in to Tailscale and similar. It may be easy for you but for me, it’s a headache. I could segregate the stuff on my network that needs to be reachable from outside on to a virtual LAN and run that through a VPN maybe, but when Lightspeed provide you with their own router and stop you from using your own (they don’t let you put it in bridge mode if what I’ve read is true) then I’m not sure if I could even do that, it’s a nightmare if networking isn’t your strong point, I’d have to research that more. If Openreach got here… choice of ISP’s, could use my own router, choice of static or dynamic… 🙁

    3. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Harwich: By the looks of it, Openreach has put in fibre to most of the Harwich/Dovercourt areas, but it appears to have abandoned the project, at least temporarily. So most premises won’t be able to connect, though you could probably see the fibre coils/runs on most of the poles now.

      This happens to a lot of areas nowadays, just drive into some neighboring towns on the Essex coast to see for yourself. This is all part of the rollout disaster caused by the lack of proper rollout management, Openreach doesn’t even publish rollout plans anymore on its website. It’s makes it look like a cowboy builder!

      As regards Lightspeed: It appears to follow the same bad example, with its many speculative announcements and again no trustworthy rollout plans.

    4. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Harwich: “They said a team of people were working on static/dynamic IPs as a priority six months ago,”

      This was actually promised by its former CEO 1 1/2 years ago: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/11/lightspeed-broadband-list-next-fttp-rollout-towns-in-essex-and-norfolk.html#comment-254331

  12. Avatar photo Sunil Sood says:

    They are not the only altnet with issues.

    According to the Telegraph, Zzoomm are also laying off staff.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2023/05/01/zzoomm-lays-off-hundreds-engineers-broadband-woes-deepen/

    1. Avatar photo John H says:

      Yes, sadly things are getting desperate for the Alnets as they struggle with high overheads, increasing interest rates and slow rates of take up.

      As an example look at Cityfibre, one of the larger Alnets. First hundreds of redundancies, then possible takeover by Virgin Media.

      Then in an effort to increase ‘take up’ they pour money and resources into marketing, launching a TV advert campaign and the Teletubbies Tour bus.

      It’s clear they’re getting desperate to improve take up percentages.

  13. Avatar photo Thiswasconing says:

    I know first hand that the build and marketing and customer experience strategy was wrong from the start. Very inexperienced people making huge decisions have cost LS and tbeir investors. Sadly i fear this wont be the first altnet to fall by the wayside..keeping customer in the dark. Really bad CPE. Underestimating the market. Absolutely wrong strategy. I saw this coming a year ago. Investors should sell now

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