The real question about Digital Britain has little to do with timescales, but more whether the channel will address the opportunity it has to catalyse the roll out of full fibre and create greater competition in the digital marketplace.
That's according to Platinum sponsor CityFibre, the disruptive infrastructure builder, and Entanet, the channel-centric connectivity wholesaler CityFibre acquired in July this year. Both are united by their shared vision on the essential role of full fibre in serving the growing needs of the digital workplace.
In their session, CityFibre Director of Strategy Mark Collins and Entanet CEO Elsa Chen rallied the channel to embrace the power they have to deliver full fibre at scale and ultimately help to make Digital Britain a reality.
Chen explained that for the fist time the channel is entitled to exercise options that will have a direct influence on Britain's digital future, simply by embracing alternatives. "The channel underestimates its power," she said. "Collectively, as a community, we can influence decisions and increase competition in the marketplace."
Collins noted that more competition in the market would drive a reaction from incumbent operators. "Our model is to create fibre evangelists in the channel," he added. "We are the challenger, we've poked the bear and there is a role for us."
Their proposal reflects the stance of Ofcom and the Government which both applaud the role of altnets in building full fibre networks with less reliance on the incumbent.
"We are not an infrastructure business with a wholesale arm, we are a wholesale company with infrastructure," stated Chen. "The difference for Entanet now is in greater scale and depth. Our core has always been wholesale, and post transaction we have created a unified platform for the channel to build a full fibre network.
"We invite the channel to join us and collectively exercise the power of choice to influence the marketplace. We want the channel to tell us where to go. Where there are pockets of concentration, we are happy to have a conversation - it's about aggregation. Choice makes the channel partner powerful, but it's not going to happen overnight."
Yet CityFibre's relatively short existence displays clearly what can be achieved when vision and ambition combine to create an unstoppable force. The company was formed in 2011 and from the outset its mission has been to respond to under investment in fibre and increasing frustration in the channel. "We saw an opportunity - a simple one - to invest in building a full fibre infrastructure across the UK," added Collins.
"Our growth has accelerated, we are 100% channel and have always been reliant on partners that enable us to build networks. We need to embrace the channel more while maintaining key relationships and migrating out of previous ones based on exclusivity. We are opening up as much to the channel as we can. Only when entering a new location will we have anchor partners."
According to Collins and Chen, their fibre-first and wholesale-first approach answers the concerns of a business community begging for world class connectivity. "The channel has increasingly better connectivity options and we have to work collaboratively together," added Collins. "We all have a part to play in taking Digital Britain forward."
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Elsa Chen, CEO, Entanet