In the run up to Connected Britain 2019, Total Telecom spoke to Richard Toper, CEO and Founder of Setics, about the opportunities abounding in the UK’s connectivity sector

Tell us a little about Setics activities here in the UK over the past 12 months?

Firstly, I must say we like very much working in the UK: once projects are decided things are moving fast and the Anglo-Saxon entrepreneurship spirit is helping UK set up a dynamic environment to work in.

In the last 12 months, Setics actually started its operation in the UK. We are pleased that in this timeframe we have been able to gain several clients, totalling more than 150 000 FTTP in network design. This includes Setics being involved in both the use of our software and providing services. 

In the coming months, we will continue engaging operators as well as looking to partner with design & engineering companies to make them benefit from our experience in using tools and methods that dramatically improves fibre projects’ overall economics.


On the fixed line side of things, the UK is still playing catch up with its European neighbours. FTTP levels in the UK are now at 7% – is that growing quickly enough? Is enough money being invested?

Regarding the largest European countries FTTP, Spain is leading (85% homes passed), France is rolling out FTTP (80% in 2022, 100% in 2025), Italy launched a very ambitious plan and Germany is lagging.

Our experience in France has demonstrated that these FTTP projects are very profitable. In rural areas, where the competition with mobile, cable or VDSL is weak, the success is quite dramatic: in such areas, a 50% penetration rate is often noticed after 1 year of operation.

We notice that many FTTP projects are blossoming in UK, with a very pragmatic local approach. There is significant private investment alongside government funding, although some forecasts of growth may be slightly optimistic.


Until 2018, France has deployed 13.6 million homes and will build another 4.3  million this year and will reach 30 million in 2022. What do you think are the most valuable experience that you have acquired working in France that could be transposed to UK?

Setics has been designing FTTH networks in France for many years. Now is the time when the first networks get subscribers and, you know, the success is great. For example, in Oise département, there are more than 200 000 homes passed in rural area, with more than 60 000 subscribers. 

What can be transposed to The UK:

To have a global view of the project: finance, technology, roll out, communication , local authorities, telecom regulator.

Think big, design the whole network since the inception and think to streamline processes as quickly as possible using automation as much as it makes sense.

Follow-up the deployment of the network and monitor closely the transfer from the build to operation & maintenance. Building is a labour intensive task, with not always enough skilled people to deliver the right outcome; so, special attention is required on quality. Do not forget, a fibre network is a great asset to own as long as it is proved usable!

Be patient and methodical, the project is interacting with many stakeholders, and unexpected issues can take some time.

Be optimistic, because the FTTP project will provide 21st century  Internet access to new users, and you’ll get a nice return on your investment, if the network is built in respect of operation procedures and operators’ expectations


The UK became one of the first countries in the world to launch 5G earlier this month – how big a coup is that for the nation?

According to my experience, in telecom, there will be several years between the first trial and the generalization of a new technology! 

5G is a quite new technology, which promises dramatic changes: more speed, less latency time, less energy consumption, more connected devices. To sum up, as any new technology, 5G is promising “more for less”, although the “less” is not completely clear today.

5G Work is progressing: first standards in 2018, roadmap of standards till 2026, first handsets and first networks in 2020 in Korea, China and USA.

In UK, 5G frequencies had been attributed in 2018 and EE is kicking things off by launching 5G in the UK’s four capital cities – London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – as well as Birmingham and Manchester. 

There are many question marks regarding 5G, but one issue is crystal clear: “No 5G without Fibre!”


What obstacles will need to be overcome in the coming months and years as the country looks to scale up its 5G networks?

As in any very large projects, there are many obstacles to cover the whole of the UK with a fair quality of service. And at least 10/15 years will be needed.

Political issues: as always, there is a battle of industries, increased by the conflictual competition between China and USA. The risk is adding a 2 or 3 years delay in launching industrial products.

The 5G business model is yet to be defined: will the telcos provide new 5G services? Or “vertical” (manufacturing, railways, highways, aerospace,..) will build private 5G networks? Regarding IoT, one issue is the competition with IoT networks (Lora, Sigfox,…)

5G roll out is needing 2 or 3 times more masts and towers. How to deploy this new infrastructure? Regarding small cells, how the people will act, in regard with “radiation fear”?


What are you looking to get out of your Connected Britain experience this year?

Connected Britain is an important occasion for us to get in contact with the UK ecosystem, meet clients and prospects and develop our unique differences in the marketplace. 

Our focus is about Industrialising fibre roll-outs. It is based on our experience in providing end to end design solutions from early strategic studies to operator as-built network delivery and on our design automation innovations that improve speed, quality and lowers costs in the process. 


Setics will be exhibiting at Connected Britain later this month. Click here for a full agenda and to find out how you can be part of the show…