Ahead of Connected Britain 2019, Total Telecom caught up with Isy Bizaoui, executive director, strategy and sales, at MLL Telecom to discuss the UK’s plans for full fibre rollout
The UK has moved from FTTP penetration levels of 1 per cent to 7 per cent over the last six months – is fibre deployment happening quickly enough or do we need to pick up the pace?
Yes, we absolutely need to pick up the pace. As it stands, the UK is still massively behind on fibre development compared to other developed countries. We’re late to the party, and we’re going to have to try and make up ground in a Fibre deployment world which has many barriers to speed! This will be no easy task, fibre deployment requires a fierce amount of planning, significant sums of money and even once you have the delivery engine going, it’s not going to happen overnight. Industry and Government need to come together and do all they can to speed up full fibre deployment.
What are the main challenges that the UK faces as it looks to continue rolling out fibre?
There are a number of significant constraints and challenges to overcome; from basic resource constraints and steering through the maze of planning applications and restrictions, to simply getting access to land, building and sites. Once you are through that, there’s the challenge of creating an attractive proposition that will encourage and promote full-fibre take-up.
There are also competitor dynamics that need to be considered, having the potential to slow down new market entrants, slow down investment and entrench existing players into old technologies. It’s natural for an incumbent to protect their own interests, but it can’t be to the detriment of the UK’s full-fibre ambitions. National and local governments also need to play a bigger role in the way in which fibre is distributed. Naturally, the big cities are proving to be of greater interest to the Industry, but the rural areas of UK matter too and it’s only right that these areas get their fair share of fibre investment.
What do you make of the ACA’s recent decision to allow ISPs to use the term ‘Fibre’ while advertising fibre to the cabinet services?
The decision is a blow to new entrants – It allows incumbent players to label a broader element of their products and services as full-fibre. It will create confusion, for consumers and business customers, ultimately create further investment challenges for new entrant full-fibre players. At MLL Telecom, we work with both incumbent and new players. Our customers are technically astute and we will have the opportunity to help them understand the differences between the various flavours of fibre. That will be tougher to do in the consumer and SME market, where the sales engagement model is very much driven by advertisement and on-line purchases. The more confusion there is around fibre service definitions, the more reluctant consumers will be to switch.
What does 2019 have in store for MLL Telecom?
2019 is set to be a very exciting year, both in terms of delivery and opportunity. 2018 saw us win many new customers, so a large part of our focus is about transitioning customers off old legacy networks to new and often larger and more complex networks. This year is exciting too because there is a huge swell of opportunity in the current marketplace – more and more organisations are investing in networks (in many cases using full-fibre) and as we see data consumption continue to increase, we’ll see more people looking for better, bigger networks with more bandwidth and more capacity. We’re very much excited to see what opportunities lie ahead.
What are you most looking forward to at the Connected Britain event?
Although it’s true that there exists a challenging dynamic between incumbent and new players, the market has never been so competitive and so exciting. We’re seeing big opportunities present themselves almost daily. Connected Britain will be a great opportunity for these industry players – big and small – to come together to discuss the challenges and real issues that we are all facing because ultimately, we all want one thing and that is to increase full fibre penetration throughout the UK.