CityFibre cuts wayleave red tape to speed fibre uptake

CityFibre is seeing early success with a new process designed to make it easier to hook up customers with fibre, something that bodes well for the UK fibre market as a whole.

The UK altnet is using a system it has dubbed Permission to Work (PtW) to help it reduce the need for wayleaves when connecting homes and buildings to its network. A wayleave, or legal agreement between network operator and land or property owner, adds a layer of legal complexity, and therefore also extra time, to a network rollout.

Under the system, the end user placing the order signs a PtW form – ideally at the time of order, prior to provisioning or at the point of survey – which sidesteps the requirement for the order to go through the full wayleave process.

CityFibre has been using PtW since July and is already reaping the benefits. The average cycle time for CAT 3 and CAT 4 has been reduced by 60 percent, the company said. It did not share actual figures on those cycle times, but clearly that’s a sizeable reduction.

“The new PtW process is game-changing. I really can’t stress enough how significant this is for our partners,” said Andrew Wilson Sales Director, Wholesale Channel at CityFibre.

“By adopting this process, partners can reduce the time between an order being placed and an invoice being raised. We encourage every partner to adopt it and see the benefits first-hand,” Wilson said.

Although CityFibre is a wholesaler, any moves to smooth the path to increased fibre uptake will naturally have a knock-on effect, particularly in a market where network competition is becoming fierce, at least in some areas.

While CityFibre is working hard to compete with the fibre market’s big guns, like Openreach and Virgin Media O2, it also faces intense rivalry at the other end of the scale, from a growing number of small, often market-specific, fibre builders.

This competitive landscape is starting to show in market data. As of the end of October, 41 percent of UK premises – that’s almost 13 million premises – were passed by FTTP networks, up from 38 percent at the end of August, according to new statistics from Point Topic. 925,000 premises had three independent fibre ISPs to choose from at the same date, the analyst firm noted, with as many as 1.7 million having access to at least two.

The UK ranks fourth in Europe in terms of growth in number of homes passed with fibre, according to the FTTH Council Europe, although the body’s data lags Point Topic’s by some margin; the UK’s 80 percent year-on-year growth rate refers to the 12 months to September 2021. However, uptake in the UK remains weak at just 6.3 percent at the same date. Even when calculated as a percentage of homes passed, the UK only manages to clock up a 24 percent take-up rate.

That said, the data is relatively old in what is becoming a fast-changing market, so doubtless there has been progress since then. Indeed, BT’s first-half numbers, published earlier this month, show that Openreach had an FTTP footprint of 8.8 million premises at the end of September 2022, with a customer base of around 2.4 million, or 27 percent take-up.

That looks a lot healthier and helps to illustrate why CityFibre is keen to crack on with its own initiatives to connect customers faster.


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