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Southend picks CityFibre for a 50km dark fibre network
Thursday 17 March 2016 11:10:28 by Andrew Ferguson

A month ago talk emerged of a mystery FTTH network for Southend and we speculated that the wording used sounded very like another CityFibre Gigabit City and now it has been confirmed with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council selecting CityFibre to deliver a 50km future proof dark fibre network to interconnect 120 public sites across the area in a contract worth £3.24 million over ten years.

"Connectivity is a critical issue for today's businesses, so this has the potential to be a massive boost to jobs and investment in the town.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is delighted with its selection of CityFibre as its provider of ultra-fast network connectivity for the borough. The solution will not only provide a stepped improvement in connectivity for Council premises and schools but also offer solutions for businesses and residential premises. The partnership reflects the Council’s commitment to sustainable economic growth and improved opportunity for all."

Cllr Ian Gilbert, Executive Member for Community & Organisational Development

Southend is a long way from being an Internet backwater with 96.8% coverage at 24 Mbps and faster and Virgin Media cable coverage at 59.7%, so when the press release talks about "many of these key sites are currently served by legacy BT Openreach connections, frequently delivered over out-dated copper wires" we are a little surprised, since Ethernet services should have been readily available perhaps more correctly it was a case of the price not being right.

The dark fibre network is not destined to supply just the council, once the core contract has been fulfilled the build will expand to the point where the majority of the 6,000 businesses in Southend will gain the option to order a CityFibre Gigabit service and CityFibre will also be hoping to sign up mobile operators to use the dark fibre to interconnect mobile mast sites and the cherry on the cake some time down the line might be a Fibre to the Home roll-out. We have asked for an update on the York FTTH progress and whether a FTTH roll-out in Southend is a certain or something that has the potential to happen if an operator takes an interest.

The reason people like councils and business with multiple sites love dark fibre solutions is that you just pay for the fibre, how it is lit and the speed it runs at is down to the council/business, so every site could be linked with fibre at speeds of 10 Gbps for the same price as 100 Mbps essentially putting multiple sites on a LAN that is better than the connectivity between two computers in the same office.

CityFibre has numerous Gigabit Cities now across the UK delivering services to councils and businesses, but to date only York has started down the FTTH route with a limited size joint venture with Sky and TalkTalk. There is a legacy FTTH network that covers around 20% of Bournemouth but this is not part of the modern CityFibre roll-out plans. CityFibre declare in the press release that they address 3.5 million homes, which we know this does not mean homes passed in the traditional sense but is rather the number of premises in the cities where the CityFibre dark fibre network exists.

Update 12:30 We had a few questions that we thought people might like an answer to, and below is an exact copy of the questions and responses.

  • The York FTTH area how many homes passed to date? When is CityFibre/Sky/TalkTalk JV expecting to have passed the original 20,000 announced? How is take-up going?
    We're very pleased with the progress to date, and there will be more updates on the project in due course.
  • Will the roll-out for business just concentrate in the Openreach copper legacy area, or include the 59% with cable coverage? i.e. Does CityFibre feel it can compete with the fixed connection speed services from Virgin Media too?
    We will deploy anywhere where there is aggregate demand which justifies extending the network into a commercial area or business park, as in every other city where we operate.
  • Is a FTTH roll-out confirmed for Southend, or is this something that is possible, but no-one has confirmed it will happen.
    On Southend FTTH, all our networks are designed to accommodate potential future FTTH deployments as an extension of the core metro build, but for the present our focus in FTTH with our joint venture partners Sky and TalkTalk is on York.


Posted by cyberdoyle 7 months ago
Just goes to show that even though the stats say Southend has got 96.8% coverage of so called superfast that in reality the people are saying they haven't?
Posted by TheEulerID 7 months ago
How on earth you've come the conclusion that this is evidence that 96.8% don't have access to 24mbps+, I've no idea. It says no such thing. This is a dark fibre backbone with Southend council the key customer. Undoubtedly commercial businesses will use it (an alternative to OR private circuits). Whether it's extended to residential is an open question. That's much more expensive.
Posted by cyberdoyle 7 months ago
TheEulerID well perhaps the whole of southend has superfarce, but the council offices and public sites are in the final 3.2% that don't, so they need to bring in the professionals. Is that what you're saying?
Posted by chilting 7 months ago
I get the sense that this is just the start for CityFibre. Their dark fibre network is now second only to BT's.
Posted by ian72 7 months ago
Council offices are unlikely to use FTTC products - they use dark fibre because they require high bandwidth and no contention. Cityfibre is more akin to BTs lease line business than to anything to do with "superfast". Only the small offices will likely use the FTTC type products.
Posted by TheEulerID 7 months ago

This ring is (at the moment at least) being used as an alternative to OR leased line/ethernet cicuits. It's not targeted at the sort of residential and small businesses that use VDSL or ADSL services. As to whether the network gets extended down residential streets to provide services to compete with VM, OR and LLU products is another issue.
Also, do you think it's about time you stopped using playground terms?
Posted by herdwick 7 months ago
Cityfibre in Peterborough did a similar deal with the Council, the library connections seems a bit slower if anything. No sign of retail FTTH to compete with existing VM Cable and Openreach FTTC. A few businesses moved over from leased lines or whatever they had before.

I'm typing this from next to a near-empty shopping centre proclaiming Gigabit fibre is available in the empty units that are to let. Been like that for over a year.
Posted by whatever2 7 months ago
The 20% of Bournemouth is highly questionable as well. I've never seen any evidence that it covers more than a few blocks of housing opposite a small industrial estate. And that was suspended when the residents complained about the mess the pavements were in and the water company stated they'd not given permission for the fibre in their ducts.

So far it's looking like a scam that the occasional council seem to be falling for.
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