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F&W Networks Scales Back Some UK Full Fibre Builds and Cuts Jobs

Friday, Sep 29th, 2023 (7:38 am) - Score 2,928
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Altrincham-based F&W Networks, which has so far managed to extend their gigabit-capable full fibre (FTTP) broadband ISP network to cover 360,000 UK premises (up from 250k in Feb 2023), appears to have become the latest alternative network to scale-back some of their build plans and notify staff of future redundancies.

The operator, which was aspiring to cover 1 million premises by 2025, has spent the past few years deploying their network across parts of several counties in England including West Sussex (Horsham and Southwater), Oxfordshire, Greater London, Buckinghamshire (Gerrards Cross, Chalfont Saint Peter, High Wycombe and Beaconsfield), Hertfordshire (Hemel Hempstead), Hampshire, West Berkshire and Surrey (Godalming) etc.

NOTE: F&W Networks (Fibre and Wireless) has received tens of millions in investment from Maestro Capital and Foresight Group LLP.

The network is supported by a number of ISPs (e.g. Hey! Broadband, Octaplus, Link Broadband and Home Telecom) and rollouts are now said to be underway in a total of 40 areas across Southern England. However, despite the progress, reports started coming in to ISPreview this week of redundancies being made at the operator.

On top of that, we also received a few emails from residents due to be covered by some of F&WN’s other projects, such as the full fibre Gigabit Voucher Scheme for Godstone and South Godstone in Surrey, where the operator has just cancelled the planned build.

F&WN’s Statement to the Community

We are writing to inform you of a significant change in priorities and focus for F&W Networks, which will have implications across all our network projects, including the full fibre Voucher Scheme in Godstone and South Godstone.

F&W Networks has decided to reallocate its resources to enhancing sales within our existing network. Unfortunately, this shift in focus will impact the Voucher Scheme in Godstone and South Godstone. After a thorough reassessment of our financial priorities, we regret to inform you that F&W Networks cannot proceed with these Voucher Scheme builds.

While we remain committed to regularly reviewing our business priorities, we must acknowledge the pressure from BDUK to complete Voucher Schemes quickly. This means that it is unlikely that these schemes can be built in the future. This decision is especially difficult considering the high level of community interest shown over the last 12 months.

The above statement clearly alludes to wider challenges that “will have implications across all our network projects” and highlighted a need to “reallocate its resources to enhancing sales within our existing network” (i.e. a greater focus on generating take-up instead of new build), which is starting to sound very familiar.

Network operators are currently under a lot of strain, not least from rising levels of competition (price and overbuild etc.), rising costs (e.g. leases, build, inflation) and the need to generate a good level of consumer take-up in order to satisfy investors. Often those pressures can make it hard to attract fresh funding, which may result in a slower build and related job losses as operators switch to focus on growing take-up.

A Spokesperson for F&WN told ISPreview:

“Following a period of significant growth, F&W Networks is realigning its business strategy, with a particular focus on driving up utilisation of its full-fibre network footprint. As a result, the company will focus on gaining market take up rate in the coverage areas before accelerating growth on the build plan again. This has necessitated some minor departmental restructuring, and the company has worked closely with the relevant teams.

As the market matures, it is sometimes necessary to consider such realignments but a measured approach to expansion and a continued focus on customers will ultimately ensure the long-term success of the company.”

The operator’s most recent Company Accounts to 31st August 2022 reported that they had total assets (less current liabilities) of £32.64m (up from £14.84m in 2021), albeit falling to net assets of £20.77m (up from £14.84m). The operator is also listed as employing 39 people (up from 12).

Overall, F&WN appears to be playing it safe and seems to be in a better position than some of the other operators we’ve recently had to report on, which suggests that they may be trying to avoid running into bigger difficulties further down the road by adjusting their strategy early.

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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
16 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Their West Sussex build also covers Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath, with a number of addresses in that area live (although this news might mean that they stop expanding in those towns!)

    1. Avatar photo David Wheatley says:

      Glad I got my connection live before this, even if it did take 4 months of chasing Hey…

    2. Avatar photo Sussex Fibre says:

      They are in Billingshurst and Crawley as well although they haven’t covered a great deal in Billingshurst which was already done by Openreach. Swish fibre also seem to have halted their build there

  2. Avatar photo Scott says:

    Phil Jansen said the quiet bit out loud. Another day another redundancy announcement.

    1. Avatar photo Jeremy says:

      “BT to slash workforce by up to 55,000 before 2030” PJ 😉

    2. Avatar photo Phil says:

      Zero peeps about BT closing offices and laying off staff in Ipswich and similar locations.

      Wonder why :thinking emoji:

  3. Avatar photo Bob says:

    There is increasing competition for customers making it hard fore small Alt Nets to drive up take up
    Most are now slowing down the rollout to try to conserve cash. Will they drive up taker up sufficiently though before the cash runs out? That is looking increasingly difficult

    The one positive may be the switch to Digital as these may be a means to drive up take up as people will have to take action

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      A lot of that depends on the flexibility of the investors and what repayments terms they expect. Operators burn a lot of money to build the network, which is to be expected, so if they can deliver reasonable take-up on what has been built (RFS) then they’ll achieve some degree of predictable return in the future (remember full payback on FTTP is still measured over the longer term – 10+ years etc.).

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I think they are also finding it difficult to get people to change, the same on the Openreach network. I chat to a few people who have no interest in changing to FTTP, certainly with the prices, only have to look at the Sky article above and the prices they are going to charge for a lousy 60Mb/s after 18 months. FTTp is an excuse to put prices up even higher.
      some people are just going to say stick if we won’t bother with home internet. I know a couple of people who don’t have broadband at home, as they use their phones for doing everything they need.
      The other thing that puts a few people off is the 24-month contracts that seems to be the norm.

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      FTTP take up >30% where available despite rapid build: higher than FTTC was at this point in the deployment.

      But of course we have been through this multiple times and you believe your opinion over, you know, facts.

  4. Avatar photo Sam says:

    FW has not covered 360k

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I doubt it’s an RFS figure, but it is the footprint figure from their website.

  5. Avatar photo GG says:

    Still going like the clappers here (west of Hemel in Herts). Fingers crossed they’ll complete as they’ve not lit it up yet.
    Maybe recontracting with Virgin wasn’t such a terrible idea after all.

  6. Avatar photo Richard Branston says:

    It’s not surprising F&W are scaling back – their approach to driving returns from investments is ludicrous.

    In our area they have been “clearing” ducts for nearly a whole year with a decent sized team seemingly working full time. Yet no fibre has been laid, no customers are connected and hence, no revenue has been generated.

    If they refocussed their network development activity they would shorten the lead-time to generating cash – there are loads of houses on our street waiting to adopt the service but it seems like that will still be many months away. A year between starting to invest and seeing any cash return is pretty hard to justify.

  7. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Sad to hear this. I’m in West London just outside their Ealing build area, and was going they would come this way next. The other fibre provider in the area (Community Fibre) seem to have skipped us.

  8. Avatar photo finaldest says:

    So much for a competitive market.

    While all the Altnets slowly bleed cash and go bust the BT Openreach monopoly will become the BT EE Openreach monopoly.

    As for the customer, It will be potluck as to what service you can get.

    As much as I would like the private sector to deliver, Its clear that this is not possible. I think its now time to reconsider to re-nationalise the network.

Comments are closed

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