Ofcom's stance on the roll out of full fibre could jeopardise the viability of existing infrastructure investments and kibosh the potential for future investment in certain areas, according to James Warner, Sales, Marketing and Product Director at Glide Business.
"Ofcom wants to pursue a strategy of multiple physical fibres deployed as competing networks, predominantly funded through commercial enterprise," stated Warner. "I ask a simple question on this approach: Should every business and home have multiple physical gas/electric/water supplied into it?
"The likely outcome of Ofcom's strategy is a race and overbuild scenario for densely populated urban areas, resulting in a consolidation of competing infrastructure networks. With added competition comes a threat to original investment, which could damage future infrastructure investment in an area."
Warner also believes that Ofcom's commitment to consumers in hard to reach areas, known as the watchdog's 'outside-in' strategy, is more 'upside down' in its logic.
"Ofcom has thought about the most rural consumers, providing funding for the hardest to reach three to four million users," added Warner. "Yet this approach, coupled with the competing overbuild scenario, will lead to mid-size towns and semi-rural locations being unattractive for commercial investment. Ofcom needs to rethink its role in managing the roll out of full fibre."
As full fibre prime movers turn up the volume on their 'act now' message to resellers, Warner fully expects channel partners to find it increasingly problematic to consume multiple standards of networks and services in disparate geographies across the UK as Digital Britain continues to grow.
"The channel should work together to try and help Ofcom devise a set of standards that all alternative networks suppliers can adhere to, making the consumption and management of those services easier for them and end customers," he stated.
"The opportunity for the channel to provide more products and services than ever before shouldn’t be underestimated. In our specific scenario, we deploy to locations predominantly with average speeds of 7-10 mbit/s, enabling gigabit capable business FTTP. This opens up a whole new set of capabilities and conversations previously not achievable for these businesses, which have left hundreds of companies delighted with their new full fibre connectivity."
A growing number of consumers and business across the UK already have the appetite for these services, signalled by over 5,000 vouchers claimed by UK companies through the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme since March 2018.
"If you don’t start offering customers these services, someone else will," warned Warner. "The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review published in July was a great first step in the Government taking the issue seriously. The Government understands that we need to build the railways and motorways of the future to enable the British economy to function in the 21st century. There are, however, two key challenges we still face - logistics and adoption."
Warner believes that important logistical changes, such as Duct and Pole Access (DPA), will widen the scope of full fibre. "DPA is an agenda Glide has pushed for many years, we are currently the single largest consumer of DPA in the industry," he claimed.
"It stops the expensive and extremely long delivery approach of traditional full fibre deployment, meaning you don’t have to dig up half the country with trenches and heavy machinery. We simply lay sub-ducts within the existing ducting infrastructure to deliver full fibre right to our customers’ device, removing those logistical headaches."
Practical obstacles, including wayleaves, are a challenge but progress is nevertheless being made, pointed out Warner.
"The channel will play a critical role in driving adoption," he stated. "Channel partners are the face of the customer and their trusted advisor of most things IT. By generating more conversations and awareness about what is available and possible we can give customers a better service and enable them to do more.
"But the watchword is 'evolution' not 'revolution' when it comes to full fibre deployment. While the services are truly revolutionary for those who can access it, we are many years away from a scenario where FTTP is the defacto option. The channel needs to ensure it has all the options open to best serve customers’ needs."