Faster fibre roll out now critical as nationalisation threat eases

Labour’s threat to nationalise full fibre has subsided in the wake of the election but calls for the comms sector to ‘Get fibre done’ are intensifying. In drawing nationwide attention to FTTP Labour has succeeded in driving forward the fibre agenda and the onus is on the UK comms sector to deliver.

“Full fibre featuring as one of the top issues in political discourse can only have positive effects on our industry, whether through increasing customer awareness of FTTP or by guaranteeing public money for difficult to reach areas,” commented Guy Miller (pictured), Director of Fibre For Everyone at TalkTalk. “Acceleration is critical now, both for the fibre builders and the communication providers who sell the services.

“There was a lot of talk from our industry during the election that we could achieve success through a competitive market. We need to prove this is true.”

Marcus Allchurch, Partner at Acuity Advisors, is upbeat about prospects following the election. “I’ve advised a number of companies to raise funding so far and have a strong pipeline of opportunities, so I’m confident that the sector is rising to the challenge,” he stated.

“In many respects Labour’s policy did a great job of highlighting that FTTC is not full fibre, and that full fibre is what you need if you want a great digital experience.”

Glide MD James Warner added: “The threat of Labour’s plans should spur the fibre builders and Openreach to get the job done and stop any possibility of similarly outrageous future announcements.”

Labour’s announcement and the shock wave it sent through the industry highlights the importance of a supportive regulatory environment for alternative network operators, noted Allchurch. “While full fibre is the most appropriate solution in most places there are parts of the country where other solutions can be more practical, at least in the short term,” he stated. “So Ofcom and others must ensure a joined up strategy.”

Warner also noted that some aspects of the full fibre infrastructure sector will need to be reassessed if progress has any chance of accelerating. “Wayleaves, wayleaves, wayleaves,” he reiterated.

“We have the knowledge and the capability, the funding and interest from private and public sources, but the challenge is the time it takes to help a freeholder improve the infrastructure of their building. The only winners are the lawyers. Another challenge will be in the EECC (European Electronic Communication Code) and new gaining provider lead switching, and how we as an industry will move from a single infrastructure supply to multiple, and manage the complexity of switching that must take place seamlessly for the end user.”

County Broadband CEO Lloyd Felton says Labour’s manifesto pledge was a ‘simplistic approach’ to a complex roll out. “What is needed is the backing of Government to stop allowing FTTC solutions to be marketed as fibre broadband,” he said.

“What has also been highlighted is a significant need for providers to educate the public and wider stakeholders on what is, and what isn’t, FTTP broadband, and the limitations that FTTC and copper cable has on broadband speeds when it reaches the property. We need to ensure momentum is not lost and appeal to the public’s greater interest by raising awareness of how FTTP will be the future-ready choice for homes and businesses in the near future.”

Allchurch confirmed that there is growing momentum in the full fibre sector with an ever increasing number of alternative network operators rolling out network architectures and customer propositions appropriate for a particular region and type of town, or type of building. “There are also a large number of funds with billions of pounds which are keen to invest,” he added.


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