Contributed Article

Daren Baythorpe, CEO of wholesale full fibre provider, ITS Technology Group discusses how the progress and delivery of ‘Gigabit Britain’ is being accelerated with joined up thinking across the public and private sectors

The road to ‘Gigabit Britain’ continues to gather pace. In the last twelve months, 70%[i] of the UK now has a gigabit broadband technology option, while true full fibre access has grown from 25% to around 40%.

This has been achieved thanks to an extraordinary push by infrastructure providers such as ITS. During this period, the altnet community has also continued to grow substantially, with combined financial firepower behind it now comparable to the scale of many of BT and Virgin’s investments.

While the delivery capabilities of these organisations are vital to get fibre into the ground, collaboration is a key enabler, bigger than the sum of its parts, that will ensure we meet the government’s ambitious targets for universal access to gigabit-capable services by 2030.

This was why ITS launched its Faster Britain programme in 2020, as a vehicle to work collaboratively with our stakeholders including our partner ISPs and resellers. A brand that they can get behind, helping them to go to market selling connectivity solutions to businesses, as we continue to accelerate our full fibre builds to major towns and cities across the UK.

Making the most of reuse

As a business, we have long recognised the benefits of reuse and ‘dig once’ network build methods which offer a more sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to delivering full fibre.

As well as being Openreach Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) accredited, ITS works closely with local authorities to maximise their existing assets, building on the success achieved across Nottingham. Having signed the first agreement of its kind with the City Council – a concession to reuse its city centre and tram ducts – we have forged many similar agreements since.

With increased joined up thinking, projects that are designed to utilise existing infrastructure are delivered more efficiently with less disruption to the local communities they are designed to serve.

The next level of collaboration

One of our most notable public private projects currently underway is LCR Connect, a £30m 212km rich full fibre spine that will reach 29k businesses across the six local authority areas of the Liverpool City Region – Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral.

With more than 30% already built, LCR Connect is bringing to life a key manifesto pledge by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, designed to drive economic growth and better equip the businesses of the Liverpool City Region. It is a joint venture that takes public private collaboration to the next level being 50%-owned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA), in partnership with ITS working alongside our construction partner NGE, who is managing the build and roll out of the network.

At the heart of LCR Connect’s delivery strategy is the collaboration between the JV and each of the six local authorities that make up the Liverpool City Region. This approach is not only harnessing the opportunities of full fibre, it is also helping to overcome many of the challenges and barriers that are part and parcel of building full fibre networks; from wayleaves to highways.

Smart collaboration facilitates smarter builds

To sum up, we cannot underestimate the complexities associated with infrastructure builds. These challenges are simplified when there is greater stakeholder collaboration. While the public sector is forward thinking in its mindset to creating better, smarter environments for its communities, there is still some way to go before there is true collaboration between the wider ecosystem such as landowners, developers, and housing associations. As these mindsets shift, the rewards will be great, and will further smooth and accelerate the path to a truly Gigabit-Great Britain.

[i] Source: ThinkBroadband