While Britain lags behind much of the rest of Europe in terms of FTTH rollout, a number of high resource projects are being rolled out in parallel, threatening to put a real strain on the UK’s pool of skilled technicians
Nearly £10 billion has been raised to facilitate the rollout of gigabit capable broadband services in the UK, but concerns over sufficient skilled labour resources are threatening to stall the process, according to industry experts.
Speaking exclusively to Total Telecom in London this week, Adtran’s chief technology officer, Ronan Kelly, said that availability of skilled workers was a real concern for the industry, both in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
"One of the things that we’ve been hearing consistently over the last 18 months or so is that there are concerns on the supply side. Not just concerns over the raw materials, or the pure fibre itself, but also the skilled labour resources. There are so many projects going on in parallel at the moment, that they are all trampling over one another in terms of available resources," said Kelly.
Kelly said that this was a particular concern for Irish operators, who feared seeing their skilled workers lured away by the promise of bigger contracts in the UK.
"I was speaking with some of the guys in the Irish market and they are extremely nervous because the Irish market has just commenced two major projects in parallel. They were ramping up their activities and then the UK market has just exploded. So, they are extremely nervous now because the portability of their skilled labour resources is very high, and the availability and opportunity of work here in the UK is exponentially larger than what they can get in the Irish market. They are really worried that they are going to lose a lot of their skilled resources to the UK."
With the focus on fibre to the home (FTTH) services sharpening dramatically across Europe, Kelly is concerned that the UK and Ireland could be left even further behind, if labour resources are not managed properly.
"It’s a double-edged sword in that there are a lot of opportunities but there are also a lot of challenges to be overcome. I’m hearing people starting to make groaning noises about supply challenges – you have to say to yourself ‘it took 15 years to get this engine started let’s make sure we don’t stall the thing, just because we can’t keep up with demand’," he concluded.
Ensuring full fibre connectivity will be a key theme at this year’s Connected Britain event. Held from the 19th-20th June, Connected Britain will bring together the key stakeholders from Britain’s telecoms sector. Click here for a full agenda.