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Broadband ISP Zen Internet Complete UK Exchange Rollout Project UPDATE

Wednesday, Dec 6th, 2023 (9:01 am) - Score 6,360
Fiber Optic cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports

Rochdale-based ISP Zen Internet has revealed that they’ve finally completed their exchange rollout (unbundling) programme, which means that over 80% of the United Kingdom should now be within reach of their cheaper on-net based Ethernet (leased lines) and broadband products (e.g. FTTP).

The provider has been investing millions of pounds over a fair few years’ to gradually grow their own network of local exchange PoPs (Points of Presence) / Ethernet nodes, which has given them more flexibility to offer a better range of products and prices to both small businesses and residential consumers alike.

NOTE: Zen’s latest accounts to 30th Sept 2022 show they invested £5.9m into exchange and core network capacity upgrades over the last 12-months.

Back in 2019 they’d already managed to unbundle 400 exchanges from BT / Openreach and promptly set a target of reaching 700 exchanges by 2021 (here), which they said would enable their own network to cater for more than 80% of the UK with a total core capacity of 5Tbps (Terabits per second). The operator also spoke of a future aspiration to then reach 987 exchanges by around 2025 (25Tbps core network).

The good news today is that Zen Internetrecently-completed” their exchange rollout programme, albeit doing so somewhat later than the original ambition of 2021. As a result, they’ve “expanded our on-net leased line coverage by 55 per cent“. In order to celebrate this, the ISP is offering a 10% discount on their monthly Ethernet rental prices, which will be available to take until the end of this year.

Nick Tiddy, Zen’s Head of Sales, said:

“We are excited to have completed our rollout of exchanges to now have points of presence in circa 700 Openreach exchanges UK-wide. This means we have even more control over our network, further enhancing our quality control capabilities. Our service wrap is what makes us industry leading in turnaround times, benefiting from our wealth of experience in provisioning efficiencies with long tenured managers, a robust escalation process, weekly calls with our suppliers, and monthly service reviews.”

The ISP has since informed us that the exact figure is 690 exchanges, but that has still allowed them to go beyond their 80% FTTP on-net target (i.e. as of today, some 86% of their full fibre services are on their own network). The big question now is whether or not Zen will formally commit to the next phase and aim to achieve almost universal UK coverage by unbundling another c.300 exchanges over the next few years.

Zen also says they’re “leading the way on the provision of Ethernet circuits“, with a mean time to provide (MTTP) that is 21% (or 5.95 working days) faster than the industry average. “And our on-time delivery, or iCDD of 90.18% is higher than the industry average of 88.12%,” added the provider.

UPDATE 9:31am

Zen has informed ISPreview that they don’t currently have any plans to do more exchanges, mainly because it makes more economic sense to use BTWholesale for the remaining 14% than to unbundle (diminishing returns), which makes perfect sense for an ISP of their size. But they haven’t completely closed the door on this and may revisit it in a few years’ time, particularly if their customer base grows much larger and they start pulling in more users from within that 14%.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Kevin says:

    Hopefully they’ve rolled out to the Exchanges that aren’t being closed! It’s great to see a success story.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Mostly OHP exchanges I think.

  2. Avatar photo Terry ball says:

    They have issues, here are just two of them:

    1) Really poor throughput on parts of the network that they have been unable to resolve for several years.

    2)Gateways in Manchester and London that they can’t fix to customers geographically or via an option on the user portal, so you can be in Manchester but get allocated to the London gateway and London customers can get allocated to the Manchester gateway.

    1. Avatar photo Jordan says:

      yep my ip on zen shows im outside london when im a customer within london, connected to LDN BNG… weird

  3. Avatar photo Jordan says:

    mark do you know the prices for the leased lines from zen? they website doesnt show anything

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Generally with leased lines you need to get a quote. The ones who do flat pricing (BT, VM) are usually uncompetitive.

    2. Avatar photo Clive peters says:

      Do businesses get a dedicated leased line to the exchange, or is that bit over GPON and therefore constrained?

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      If a business purchases a leased line it’s a dedicated fibre back to whichever exchange is on the other end. They share bandwidth from that point on but usually have it logically either guaranteed or at least prioritised.

  4. Avatar photo Mark Edlington says:

    Their service has gone downhill massively. Connection drops several times a day now which is really frustrating. I’m looking to move

    1. Avatar photo Terry ball says:

      You need to get Zen to work out if your issues is within the Zen core network or the Openreach/CityFibre final mile infrastructure. If they don’t work out where the issue is you “may” find your current issue remains when you switch provider.

      Get on to Zen and get them working for the money you pay them.

    2. Avatar photo Stefan Holmes says:

      Good luck getting any resolution from Zen. Their customer service has gone from market leading to utterly abysmal within the last couple of years. To the point where they made so many errors they let me out of my contract early because even the complaint handler made a huge gaffe.

  5. Avatar photo Greg Hargreaves says:

    Dorset, West and South, can still be found in the stone age when it comes to getting a FTTP connection and thats across all ISP’s

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      As long as you ignore Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, home to over half the county’s population, absolutely.

  6. Avatar photo John says:

    Dorks have us still on copper telling us think it’s fibre and it’s not ! Next door to the exchange going to be the slowest in Town.
    Apsulutly crap Openreach/ Bt £33 pm 67mps dismal.

  7. Avatar photo We're trying to give you Zen. says:

    Comments are my own. We’re trying to improve the tech support experience by taking on more staff and improving our continual training and development. I’ve been a Zen employee for years..

    1. Avatar photo Terry ball says:

      This is the problem, Zen don’t believe their customers when they say that Zen has gone down hill. May be Zen need to start listening.

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