Klondike like rush for the gold of new build fibre premises
This week has seen a new full fibre provider launch, but oddly for a firm aiming to offer internet access it does not have even a basic templated website to speak of yet, so all anyone has to go on is a short press release.
Update 2pm A minimal website for British Fibre Networks has appeared.
British Fibre Networks is the latest birthing from Elfed Thomas and 'aims to provide pure fibre connectivity and a choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP) to all new build homes in the UK'. This is clarified as an ambition to capture 35% of the market for full fibre to new homes by 2021.
Clearly there are a number of well financed ISP entrants into the market. We ensure new homes have the fibre infrastructure which can connect with this growing choice of fibre networks. Choice and capacity to the customer is vital for a competitive platform. For too long, new homeowners and builders have been subject to a monopolistic offer, which is overpriced and never installed in time for when the customer moves in.
British Fibre Networks aims to address this and create a model that breaks up the monopoly of BT. Working with developers, we will deliver superior connectivity and choice to new homeowners, many of whom have previously been quoted extortionate prices for access to a patchwork copper/fibre network. It will add value for house builders, who can now offer a home with pure fibre connectivity and choice.Elfed Thomas
Promising to break up the BT monopoly is a great populist line, but the reality is that we already see a real mixture of provision for new build developments with IFNL, Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and Openreach all vying for business and delivering. For those piecemeal developments where a large site was started in say 2012 and they build in batches the situation is more complex and the ability to get full fibre deployed has changed to the extent that some new homes on the market today have better connectivity than those built on the same estate four years ago. We are also finding developers of smaller 6 to 12 premises appearing with full fibre connectivity.
The press release highlights home owners will have a choice of ISP but unusually there is a bit about discussions with a price comparison website and an unusual piece of kit called a pure fibre aggregator portal that apparently will give a greater choice of fibre networks - the benefit being access to the whole market of broadband providers. This unfortunately sounds like a unicorn word soup for saying the service will be a wholesale offering but as we have seen before offering wholesale access is massively different to having actual access to all broadband providers.
We asked about the 35% figure and was told that this relates to 35% of the expected 200,000 new homes built per year for the next three years and to quote we were actually told 'The 35% figure means 35% of the 200,000 homes built per year, so the total over 3 years will be 90,000', now 35% of 200,000 for three years works out at 210,000 premises by 2021 by our calculator.
Apparently agreements are in place with developers for 2018 and the network will be GPON based and the partnerships will actually lock out other infrastructure operators. We have a theory that the portal means something like connectivity is present from day 1 on site, but actual Internet access will require the home owner to choose and subscribre to a providers plan via this closed portal - this suggests that may some of the charges for the full fibre network on a development may be rolled into a 'community maintenance charge' which is not uncommon for gated community developments with the actual Internet subscription then being on top.
We may seem sceptical but for all the talk of breaking the BT monopoly what we have is an operator hoping to grow a business by creating a new mini monopoly.
A word of advise for all tech PR and press release copywriters 1GB actually reads as 1 GigaByte so when comparing Gigabit broadband to existing average speeds it is helpful to use consistent units, i.e. Gigabit broadband is 1 Gbps.