CityFibre investing £500 per home with plan to build 5 million premises of full fibre
CityFibre is proud of its whole-city build approach to full fibre and has now announced a £2.5 billion investment plan to build FTTP to some 5 million homes across the UK. The areas set to be covered are already identified since they have the metro network footprint and it is from this core network that a GPON network is constructed up and down the various residential streets.
It should be pointed out that as no city in the UK has seen a full build from CityFibre yet it is hard to judge the extent of the whole city approach and the statement from CityFibre does say nearly every home and business, whether that is 99.99% or 95% we won't know until much later. Examples of gaps that might exist are building owners refusing wayleave permission and there is the usual question marks around apartments that often seem to miss out during FTTP roll-outs. We hope that the reasons as to why some areas of towns have missed out previously from Openreach VDSL2 or FTTP roll-outs and the Virgin Media cable network are not repeated.
The £2.5 billion works out at a nice and simple £500 per home passed which is in the ball park for urban FTTP deployment and once five million premises are built it will meet a third of the Governments ambition for 15 million premises of full fibre by 2025. With other operators plans firming up the 15 million looks increasingly possible so long as the construction all goes to plan, but a big unknown does exist around the overlaps i.e. some areas such as Leeds are also down for full fibre from Openreach. The end result is that we may in 2025 have a few million homes with three different full fibre infrastructure operators and the other half of the country with none.
The ten cities already announced for the full fibre roll out are: Aberdeen; Cambridge; Coventry; Edinburgh; Huddersfield; Leeds; Milton Keynes; Peterborough; Southend-on-Sea; Stirling. Milton Keynes is the only one where the Vodafone Gigafast service is available to order at present in limited areas, Peterborough and Aberdeen are in the construction phase and Edinburgh will start soon.
The other 27 areas with existing CityFibre network infrastructure are: Bath; Batley; Bournemouth; Bracknell; Bradford; Bristol; Crawley; Derby; Dewsbury; Doncaster; Glasgow; Halifax; Harrogate; Leicester; Maidenhead; Manchester; Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Northampton; Nottingham; Reading; Rotherham; Sheffield; Slough; Southampton; Swindon; Wakefield; Worthing.
The first million premises were thought to be an exclusive deal with Vodafone under the Gigafast label, but the investment news today is talking about a large scale open access platform and Vodafone are described as the first consumer ISP customer, so it may be that others are lining up to join and retailer choice may appear in the future.
The Gigabit City Club that the places listed can look forward to joining is not the sole preserve of full fibre as if Virgin Media sees this roll-out as a threat to their business they can step up and launch DOCSIS 3.1 which gives them the option of 500 Mbps and Gigabit cable services. In reality getting a residential user who is enjoying a 200 or 300 Mbps service with Virgin Media and is happy to switch will be an interesting battle and explains some of the PR around hybrid fibre services being old fashioned and slow. Of course someone on a service that is not performing well at peak times will probably happily switch but full fibre on its own is no guarantee of peak time slow downs due to congestion, contrary to some of the marketing materials we see from a number of providers.