UK altnets are upping the ante on fibre competition

UK fibre providers announcing new initiatives is barely news these days, but what is worth noting is the pace at which these announcements are hitting the wires.

Thursday brought a contribution from home networking specialist, Linksys, which was keen to tell us all about the new WiFi 6 products it plans to sell through UK ISPs, presenting Community Fibre as its latest reference customer.

Linksys noted that it increasing its emphasis on working with UK ISPs, having previously targeting the consumer and business sectors directly, on the back of strong growth in the country’s broadband and FTTH market. Market evolution means altnets are “in a race against established ISPs” to roll out fibre-to-the-home, it said, and that it can help them “to stand apart from the competition.”

It’s a valid point; the raft of UK fibre builders expanding their footprints, and those still springing up, will soon be in competition with one another – if they aren’t already – as well as with the big guns.

This week, for example, Zzoomm released the names of eight market towns that will soon gain access to its full fibre infrastructure. The altnet plans to extend fibre to a further 56,000 premises, backed by a new investment of up to £44 million.

Meanwhile, Brsk secured a debt investment of as much as £103 million from funds managed by Ares Management Corporation’s Infrastructure Debt strategy, extendable to £178 million over time, to help fund the expansion of full fibre. Credit to ISP Review for sniffing out that one. Brsk provides fibre broadband in parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire (and clearly has an aversion to vowels).

One of the UK’s biggest alternative network operators CityFibre is also adding locations to its footprint at pace. Fresh from a rebrand over the summer, the firm issued almost an announcement a day in the first week of September, detailing new locations for its network build. CityFibre is, of course, a wholesaler, but its ISP customers will be feeling the competitive heat in the UK.

Speaking of competition, KCom just days ago revealed it will spend £100 million building out full fibre infrastructure in the north east of England, a move that is clearly designed to help it keep its finger on the competitive pulse. There are lots of fibre builders in that part of the country.

There are lots of fibre builders in all parts of the country, and indeed the world.

Total global revenue for the broadband access equipment market grew to US$4.5 billion in the second quarter of 2022, an increase of 12 percent on the year-earlier quarter, according to new research from Dell’Oro Group, driven by fibre rollout. The analyst firm noted that spending on PON equipment fuelled growth, with revenue for PON OLTs coming in at a record $1.3 billion during the quarter.

“Operators in Europe, China, and Southeast Asia increased their spending on PON equipment, offsetting some seasonal slowness in North America,” said Jeff Heynen, Vice President, Broadband Access and Home Networking at Dell’Oro Group, in a statement accompanying the headline numbers. “The transition to fiber is clearly a worldwide phenomenon, no longer isolated to just a handful of countries.”

While many if not most UK alnets are so small as to barely move the needle on global analyst reports, collectively they are doubtless making a difference.

And more fibre networks means more overlap and more competition for customers. We’re already starting to see it; Hyperoptic recently moved to poach customers from the UK’s big guns by offering free fibre broadband for up to nine months. That’s a pretty brave move.

Altnets need more strings to their bows if they are to stay on top, and being able to offer a better in-home experience, backed by WiFi6 routers and mesh WiFi routers, as per the Linksys announcement, will surely help.


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