The UK telecoms industry welcomed the publication of government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Report but work remains to guarantee a successful digital future
The government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) sets out the UK’s vision for a full fibre, interconnected future. The document has been warmly received by the UK’s fixed line and mobile network operators, but are the government’s plans workable and will the country succeed in hitting 100 per cent FTTH coverage by the year 2033?
In this article, we hear from the country’s key network stakeholders, to get their response to FTIR.
Openreach: As the UK’s incumbent fibre network operator, Openreach will have a huge role to play in developing connectivity across the UK. Openreach is coming under increasing pressure from the government to work more collaboratively with the country’s growing stable of altnet providers.
“We’re encouraged by the Government’s plan to promote competition, tackle red tape and bust the barriers to investment. As the national provider, we’re ambitious and want to build full fibre broadband to 10 million premises and beyond – so it’s vital that this becomes an attractive investment without creating digital inequality or a lack of choice for consumers and businesses across the country. As the Government acknowledges, the economics of building digital infrastructure remain challenging for everyone, and we believe a review of the current business rates regime is necessary to stimulate the whole sector," an Openreach spokesperson said.
Openreach’s Fibre First initiative will aim to provide 3 million FTTH connections across the UK by 2020. Openreach has stated that it would like to do as many as 10 million, provided that economic conditions are right.
“We want everybody in the UK to have fast, reliable access to the internet and we’re actively working on ways to increase adoption of our superfast and ultrafast services across the country. As more and more devices, appliances and services go online, we want every home and business to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want online, all at the same time.”
“We have a huge, world class engineering team and wherever we build, we’ll deliver the best quality network with the highest levels of service and built-in competition and choice.”
“We’re determined to be the dependable partner for the Government, the industry and our 600 wholesale customers as we work to bolster Britain’s position as a global digital leader.”
Ofcom: Ofcom has welcomed the FTIR as a crucial step in the journey towards a better-connected Britain.
“We welcome the Government’s review and share its ambition for full-fibre and 5G networks to be rolled out right across the UK. The Government and Ofcom are working together, and with industry, to help ensure people and businesses get the broadband and mobile they need for the 21st century,” said Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom.
The government estimates that between £3 billion and £5 billion will be required to connect the final 10 per cent of the population who live in hard to reach areas. Ofcom will have to work tirelessly with the government to cultivate favourable conditions for investment into the sector.
INCA: The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) has offered its full support for FTIR welcoming it as a key development in the UK’s ambition to roll out FTTH and 5G networks across the country.
In the FTIR the government pledges to increase competition in the sector and create the right conditions for private investors – lessening the country’s dependence on current incumbent, Openreach. Alt-nets clearly have a huge role to play in the provision of fixed line services in the UK for the foreseeable future.
“We welcome the Government’s FTIR and expect it to encourage the deployment of new networks to boost UK-wide competition, leading to wider coverage and much better services for consumers,” said INCA’s CEO, Malcolm Corbett.
"It is significant that rural areas are now getting the recognition they deserve when it comes to high-speed connectivity and with the ‘outside in’ approach being taken, we feel confident that the FTIR will make a positive and well-received impact nationwide.”
INCA also welcomed the decision to provide increased access to Openreach’s existing network architecture, a move that will dramatically cut costs during the early phases of network deployment.
“Traditionally, collaborative approaches were met with caution in case they breached competition laws but, as the FTIR rightly notes, this has not prevented such agreements being developed elsewhere in the EU,” added Corbett, “With such a big job to do to replace the ageing copper network, it makes sense to encourage more collaboration amongst all industry players.”
Hyperoptic is the UK’s largest provider of residential full fibre broadband connectivity and therefore works very closely with the DCMS. Hyperoptic CEO, Dana Tobak is a long term, vocal advocate of the benefits of gigabit connectivity here in the UK.
“We broadly support the recommendations [layed out in the FTIR], especially its fundamental policy of encouraging infrastructure competition within the market.
“However, the devil will be in the detail and delivery. For example, we welcome the review of the wayleave process to expedite full fibre rollout, but industry must not forget that wayleaves underpin the relationship between network builders and landowners to ensure safety and quality for residents, so we shouldn’t be too quick to undermine this.
“While we note the comments about the switchover from copper to full fibre, we believe it’s more important to focus on easier switching between networks. To encourage competition (and therefore accelerate rollout), the government and Ofcom need to support easy switching for consumers and businesses between networks and not just on Openreach’s platforms – it’s an important success factor in competing networks,” she said.