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Report Proposes Changes to Boost UK Take-up of Full Fibre Broadband from Altnets

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024 (2:00 pm) - Score 4,480

The second of two reports from strategic consultancy firm Eight Advisory has today been published, which proposes a list of “actionable recommendations” for how alternative full fibre (FTTP) broadband networks (Altnet) and their ISP partners can boost customer take-up to reach their commercial and financial objectives.

The first report, which we covered earlier this month (here), focused more on setting out the current market situation, the impact of consolidation and examining why Openreach has been able to dominate Altnets for take-up. For example, some 34% of those covered by Openreach’s FTTP have adopted the service, which compares with only around 16% for Altnets (the latter ranges from 5% to 30%, based partly on network maturity).

However, the original report didn’t contain much in the way of surprises for ISPreview’s regular readers, while the new report is more focused on providing “valuable insights and actionable recommendations” to support Altnets in achieving their commercial and financial objectives (i.e. driving penetration).

Once again, the new report and its recommendations reflect a fairly generalised / high-level view of this topic, albeit one that some people might find useful.

Key Recommendations for Altnets (simplified summary)

➤ Start engagement with stakeholders and residents long before the build starts. Preregister interest and keep residents informed of progress.

➤ Have a strong retail proposition – brand, product options, competitive price points and added value which sets your offer apart from large ISPs.

➤ Measure, improve, refine and simplify the go-to-market approach as you understand what works to maximise take-up and reduce cost per acquisition.

➤ Consistency in marketing effort across the whole footprint over time will pick up referrals and customers as they come out of contract.

➤ Ensure all homes are sellable or there is a plan to make them sellable as quickly as possible.

➤ Consider how opening your network to wholesale may further drive penetration, deter others from overbuilding and reduce churn impact.

The full report fleshes out each of the above points in more detail, although to be fair we do see that the majority (if not all) Altnets are already doing most or all of the things being recommended above. In that sense, there aren’t too many surprises to be had, although it should be noted that some decisions (to go wholesale or not) can be complex, depending upon your market focus and strategy (wholesale isn’t a panacea).

Chris Stening, Report co-author and Senior Advisor, said:

“Driving penetration & takeup is one of the number one goals of UK Altnets. We covered our expected market changes at Retail & Wholesale level in part one but while that plays out there is much they can do to drive penetration, profitability and future enterprise value.”

At this point we think that Eight Advisory might have done well to add a consumer survey to their report, which could have been used to lend some support to their points, while also showing how consumers respond to Altnets in areas where several operators are now competing. But this is perhaps something to think about for a future report.

Otherwise, we know from our readership that none of the above matters if the network isn’t available to them in the first place, which is always the first obstacle to overcome. One issue that comes up a lot relates to how most Altnets do pre-market their work (leaflets, door2door etc.) and will collect pre-registrations. But where some fall short is in the ability to then deliver what they’ve promised, ideally on-time or by keeping interested customers proactively updated when plans change (i.e. telling people on a street the new network is “coming soon..” and then leaving them hanging for 12-24 months can damage already fragile reputations).

Admittedly, building a new network is fraught with potentially delay causing obstacles, which can make finding a happy balance between early marketing and actual service availability very difficult. But getting this right could pay dividends as it helps to build credibility in the brand, which in many cases will involve retail broadband ISPs that locals may not have heard of before and will thus illicit a lower level of trust.

In addition, we’re often surprised by how some Altnets don’t focus their marketing on more of the elements that set them apart as superior vs incumbents, such as in terms of upload speeds, router capabilities, WiFi performance or other features that many of the biggest players may struggle to match at the same price point.

Finally, the previous GigaTAG report also did a modest job of highlighting areas that need improvement to help boost take-up, some of which are now in the process of being implemented.

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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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29 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Jason says:

    Why would i want to give money to some company ive never heard of .telling me they can do something better and almost all of the advertising techniques used are to put down the main company they are rivalling. Seems really sleezy

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Conversely, some people might want the symmetric offering over capped upload rate, and potentially better router.

      What I don’t like, is a letter telling you about it, and how you’ve not long to wait, and their online checkers saying you will get full fibre, only to not deliver with no reason (Netomnia are you hearing this).

    2. Avatar photo Billy Shears says:

      I think the majority of people would think the way Jason has described, don’t even know that upload speed may be different to download, have never heard of any ISP beyond BT or VM, think they have fibre already (that marketing pigeon has come home to roost) and think that WiFi is internet. The altnets have an uphill battle on their hands.

    3. Avatar photo Jason says:

      Sadly agree with Billy… Also, the education and use of key terms in the UK adverts is worse, simpler and more dumbed down than in most other markets

  2. Avatar photo Pete Richardson says:

    I’m with Vodafone mobile and broadband the broadband is next to useless 30mb download and 3 to 4mb upload if I’m lucky as for mobile I can’t make a phone call indoors the only reason I have the mobile package is I can use it in Barbados by the way I’m on one of the lowest packages in Barbados and I get 600mb up and down

    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      That’s fibre to the cabinet, or in other words, fibre up until the cabinet and from the cabinet (or pole) it’s copper

      You could consider going with some other on the openreach network in the hopes that they’ll perform better.

      there’s likely better options than that mobile performance you get as well, I’m going to presume you live in an O2 host area, seems to be that there’s a divide between Vodafone host and O2 host where O2 suffers in the Vodafone host and vice versa although I would consider yourself lucky to some who don’t even get 30mb downloads nor over 3mb uploads (in 2024!)

  3. Avatar photo Tim Wilkinson says:

    Wish I had an option for an Alt-Net as open reach have no plans for FTTP despite it being on poles 50 yards away. Just not on the road that I live on. Apparently I am too far away from my fibre enabled exchange.

    1. Avatar photo Diver Fred says:

      Strange that – where I live it’s the other way about. Most of the village is on Fibre to the cab but the road I live in is FTTP – by duct route or road we are further from the exchange building. In fact we were on FTTP before the FTTC went in.

    2. Avatar photo Dave Trent says:

      blimey, that’s unluck. what’s the max distance?

  4. Avatar photo Alex says:

    Open reach stopped fibre where I am cos of cost but done house’s across the road

  5. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    Who is this report aimed at? Do they really think the altnets are so incompetent that they haven’t thought of all this themselves?

    1. Avatar photo A Nonny Mouse says:

      They may have thought of it, but they sure haven’t done it!!
      I know of one that had taken sales in their build area, had them booked as “firm sales” in their projections. 9 months later, properties ready for service. Sales called up to book installs – “err, I haven’t heard from you in 9 months since ordering so I signed up for 2 years on VDSL.

      Yep, that’s the “communications” bit in the statements of the obvious from the report.

      Next, chase total properties passed across a large geographic area, so you do the easy bits and then move on. Result? Lots of islands of serviceable properties with surrounding ones not serviceable. Another bit in the statements of the obvious from the report.

      And so it goes on.

    2. Avatar photo Jason says:

      Haha thought the same… But I could also imagine that these small ISPs and altnets are struggling to get anyone with some knowledge to work for them in marketing…
      Most of those companies seem to be run by network engineers who have no clue how to talk to customers

  6. Avatar photo James says:

    The silence from Airbad and CDS is deafening

  7. Avatar photo Martin says:

    Where I live I only see altnets to be the best option to get FTTP sooner. Instead of waiting for Openreach to pull their heals up and waiting several years for them to replace an old copper connection.

    One altnet has built all on the telegraph poles at the top of my road and all over my estate, but unfortunately I am on a completely underground connection on my street which is more expensive to install. They do lots of maintenance work on my estate every month in the ducts so hopefully it won’t be to long.

    I have been on FTTC for around 12 years and it just gets slower and slower with the line maxed out due to the distance from the cabinet. It is now more expensive to be on an Openreach copper connection than getting an altnet full fibre connection due to companies putting the price up every April. As soon as an altnet is available I will be getting off the Openreach network.

  8. Avatar photo Rob says:

    Already seen two cases this year of altnets missing out saying they don’t cover a property and can’t say when they can only to come back a month or so later to say they can now. Too late as already signed up for an open reach provider. I get that it’s difficult to commit but maybe they need to change their build process to capitalise quickly on the visible work being done in an area.

    1. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      This. It’s madness. Engaging communities effectively in the build could easily gain another 5% sign-up at a minimum, in my estimation.

  9. Avatar photo Alan Thompson says:

    Been waiting 5+ years since signing up to an altnet they went under got taken over and have heard nothing else since

  10. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

    Would be nice if VM/NF could give even a rough ETA for going live where I live, yes it’s VM but I would benefit from faster upload speeds, presuming they can ‘fix’ modem mode on the 5x.

    If they don’t have anything by the time my contract ends, I’m not going to gamble wait whilst paying £10-20 extra per month, I’m just going to go elsewhere which will likely mean a minimum of 1-2 years.

  11. Avatar photo Dave Trent says:

    what’s the point of wasting money promoting a service that isn’t yet available? consumers will quickly forget by the time it does roll round

  12. Avatar photo Vince says:

    Altnets could try being competent…

    Many of them are just awful at everything from ordering to support, things people do care about.

    They are somehow building new networks that don’t support current (and hardly new) tech like IPv6.

    Some of them have incredibly low standards for installation quality and do all kinds of frowned upon or just plain obviously short term things in an effort to throw a network together that prove themselves to be problematic weeks/months later as failures start to happen.

    Many of them haven’t considered any sort of proper wholesale/reseller model which limits the essentially easy additional business from other people promoting and pushing them.

    …and some of them just have plain bonkers business models based on the illusion they’d throw some fibre in and get sold for big bucks only to find that isn’t how it is working out, and the value of the ‘network’ is dimininshed when they rely on PIA so much as whilst you save on build, you build in dependency on paying Openreach far more, so it’s harder to manage costs long term.

    Let’s remember some of them thought they could get 80% take up – very very unusual – think B4RN might have something like this but it has a very different non-commercial model!

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      the house of cards appears to have been built on the foundation that Openreach would be unwilling or unable to compete, as has happened in previous telecoms booms. See how Cityfibre threw their dolly out the pram every time Openreach got a price cut approved by Ofcom, or is permitted to provide an easy migration process from their copper services.

      Though that doesn’t explain the insanity that is altnets overbuilding each other!

    2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Yep, but seen areas BT have zero interest in planning suddenly get BT Openreach FTTP planned when an Altnet comes into that area.

      So yeah, a lifetime waiting for Brokenreach in a town or Altnet with symmetric speed and cheaper. Go-go Altnets and kick Brokenreach in the rear. Only thing that’s gets them moving.

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      and I live in an area that went the other way. OR rolled out FTTP, altnet one then came in through PIA (presumably after OR fixed any ducts) and altnet two after that via their own duct network.

      Ultimately the altnets want competition so can’t complain when they receive it on both sides.

      There’s no real evidence that OR’s rollout decision making is influenced by altnet aspirations. It’s logical that given the altnets are cherry picking the areas with highest returns, that OR will also prioritise them for their own rollout

    4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      So if Brokenreach did it to the Altnets, they’d call that “business”.

      Cityfibre have done areas that are / have been years away from Brokenreach doing anything like a village. Now Cityfibre are deploying at speed, Brokenreach suddenly interested and intend to start soon after “Not being on any planned rollouts”. It happened elsewhere as well as my own local areas which are near towns.

  13. Avatar photo StillWaiting says:

    I totally agree with so, so many of these comments and commend the posters’ knowledge and eloquence. Here in Tadley (Hampshire) Giganet over-promised and under-delivered (actually, more accurately, totally failed to deliver) despite having no competition from OR (and we’re still not on OR’s roll-out programme). Giganet got good ratings on Trustpilot in the beginning, then their customer service totally tanked. Cuckoo as the new ISP hasn’t exactly had a stellar start CS-wise either. And there’s still no planned re-start date for Giganet’s FTTP build….

    The consultation report’s advice referred to is mainly the “entirely bleeding obvious” isn’t it? Which tells you a fair bit about the lack of tech know-how and business acumen that so many of these alt-nets have. Contrast with Gigaclear who have fibred-up several of the surrounding villages in a < 6 month timescale….

    1. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      It’s unbelievably frustrating that Gigaclear appear to be a completely different animal from the one that failed Devon & Somerset all those years ago. Especially as we now have Airband failing nearly as spectacularly.

  14. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    To comment on one of the key recommendations:

    “Ensure all homes are sellable or there is a plan to make them sellable as quickly as possible.”

    By way of an example, and probably repeated across other altnets, too: Lightspeed Broadband announced to implement rollouts to many towns in East Anglia 2 to 3 years ago, yet miserably failed to follow through on them. Manningtree and Mistley is just one case which was announced 2 1/2 years ago, but which is now covered by Gigaclear. Lightspeed lost out on these 2 towns.

    Another example is Clacton: This town already had multiple full-fibre providers when Lightspeed started to cover the same areas. Low takeup guaranteed. The same is happening in Braintree.

    Also, many of the altnets aren’t even able to offer static IP addresses, so won’t work for gamers, CCTV, and running your web services. Some can’t even offer proper IPv6 support.

  15. Avatar photo greggles says:

    Some of the suggestions are not practical e.g. the only way to compete with Openreach on price is if Ofcom sufficiently cripple Openreach as Openreach have advantage of established customer based, existing revenue streams, and purchasing power. Equinox is proving over time this will become less and less practical. This is a Ofcom failure thats unlikely to be undone. A middle ground would be perhaps to only allow Equinox pricing in areas where no alt net exists. Netomnia and CityFibre both showing its hard to get existing players to bite on the wholesale platform. Zen seemingly now not covering new CityFibre areas where they have no LLU presence, and likewise TalkTalk no longer covering all new areas. Netomnia still no 3rd party partners. With that said Equinox is not solely to blame, read on.

    There is suggestions however where e.g. CityFibre has clearly failed, CityFibre first got attention in my city over 3 years ago, but their rollout has been so slow most people will have forgotten about them by now, in addition there was some brief pushing from both Vodafone and Zen, the problem is that pushing came almost 2 years before service was actually available. The timing was just way off, Zen actually ended up not even covering the FEX.

    In terms of the build CityFibre, instead of activating streets as they done waited for a 1/3 of the city to unlock the entire 1/3 at once, which will have been a very long delay for much of that area, in addition their communication is horrific, I registered early on, and the only update was when it could be ordered, nothing in between for different phases of the build and no estimated dates.

    Their £200 cash back offer was not offered to everyone but instead selective, a huge mistake, no known advertising campaign, especially nothing to highlight the benefits of uploading to the cloud faster, uploading videos faster etc. Meaning most end users think CityFibre, Virgin Media and Openreach offer the same thing, with the latter two being the trusted brands.

    If CityFibre end up not surviving as its original entity, there is clear and obvious reasons for it.

    Grain also seem quite slow, I watched some of their builds on BIDB, one of them it took 4 months to roll out to two streets.

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