opinion


Reshaping the future of fibre: The opportunity for AltNets

fibre broadband

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Tipu Ali, Networks Account Manager at Telehouse, looks at the evolving political and regulatory environment for UK telcos.

The UK’s communications infrastructure is set to move into the ultrafast broadband lane. With the current UK broadband network not upgrading fast enough and rapidly becoming insufficient for services like online streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT), the UK Government has laid out its pledge to ensure that a third of premises have fast fibre broadband by 2025. As such, it is investing £5bn in Project Gigabit, designed to bring fibre broadband to more than a million hard-to-reach homes and businesses.

The project will open the door for alternative networks (AltNets) to capture a slice of the UK’s broadband market – something that was previously the remit of mainstream broadband providers BT and Virgin Media. The national programme certainly presents a golden opportunity for AltNets as the UK is already on track for one of the quickest ultra-fast broadband rollouts in Europe. With competition heating up at pace, AltNets need to act now and strategically to level the playing field and future-proof the nation’s long-term digital infrastructure.

The push for market share

As AltNets compete directly with two incumbents, they face hurdles along the way in shapes of market consolidation, price erosion and limited access to land rights and skilled labour. Lack of awareness of their offerings and differentiated customer experiences adds to build the whole challenging picture. However, despite what might seem like an impossible struggle to overcome, AltNets are growing at an exponential rate and slowly winning over rural communities that are hungry for superfast broadband services.

According to the latest market report from the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA), AltNets will invest around £12bn in full-fibre connectivity from 2021 to the end of 2025. The investment is substantial, but so is the government’s target to bring the benefits of better connectivity to such large numbers of households and offices.

The most successful AltNets will identify the locations and communities of interest first, then figure out the cost of getting the broadband services to that location. This is a different approach to what the major players have been doing thus far, as they provision the cable networks first and then try to attract the customers. The AltNets’ approach is highly likely to deliver a good return on investment provided that they balance the costs and partner with trusted suppliers that can boost their connectivity.

Keeping Britain connected

As true challengers of traditional network delivery methods, AltNets have a strong position to compete well with industry giants, delivering ultrafast full-fibre solutions with no copper in sight. AltNets are paving the way for fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband, and by doing so, they can enable and empower UK organisations to exploit new operational efficiencies and transform their infrastructures, allowing them to adopt the latest technological advancements in edge computing, 5G, artificial intelligence and IoT. This type of innovation provided by AltNets can revolutionise the ways in which people and businesses stay connected. A truly connected Britain with blurred lines between urban and rural areas is exactly what this country needs post-Brexit and post-pandemic and in the era of disruptions and shortages.

This promise cannot, however, be delivered in a siloed approach. As with any network provider, AltNets will be best equipped to offer their services if they have a supportive and well-connected ecosystem of partners in place. Alongside the right infrastructure, they should focus on building the much-needed connections to support the government’s agenda and their fibre rollout plans. The two mainstream providers have already laid the infrastructural foundations, putting them one step ahead on that front. All is not lost, however, as AltNets are allowed to simply build their services around this infrastructure, using connections available through the right data centre partner.

Competitiveness lays in interconnectivity

Choosing a carrier dense facility will enable AltNets to seamlessly connect to different network operators and Internet Service Providers, creating a cost-efficient, low latency, fast service network. Such an interconnected telco ecosystem housed in one place is key to deliver high-standard service offerings and deliver a seamless connection end-to-end that customers are expecting to experience. With 5G rolling out fast, the new generation of network providers that will take advantage of the right data centre’s interconnectivity will be best equipped to bridge the divide and leave no household with a poor or unreliable internet connection.

As the 2025 targets are ambitious, opening the dialogue with business-critical partners now will help put the required architecture, connections and equipment in order and swiftly drive the delivery of ultrafast broadband forward. When it comes to securing the necessary technologies and tools, a quick and effective rollout of FTTP services needs rack and cabinet design integration as well as technical consultancy services. Partnering with independent broadband service providers and mobile operators could also help secure a steady long-term revenue, alongside relationship building with key re-sellers and retail partners to reduce investment risk and make the processes as easy for customers as possible.

Bringing the UK to top speed

To shape a gigabit-capable future in the UK, AltNets are facing fierce competition. The opportunity to enable fully efficient delivery of streaming and IoT services, support the 5G rollout and benefit from the national programme is, however, one of a time, thus, requires a time pressure on securing the right infrastructure and building a connected ecosystem of partners. With the help of carrier-dense and carrier-neutral data centre, AltNets can seize the fibre opportunity and differentiate themselves from other providers and established incumbents, bringing the UK into an era of ultrafast broadband speeds and innovative fibre solutions. The new wave of modern network providers will not only enrich the telecommunication industry, but also the lives and possibilities for UK businesses and residents.

 

Tipu Ali joined Telehouse Europe in 2016 as an Account Manager for the Network Service Provider sector. He has 7 years’ experience in the data centre industry and 15 years in the IT industry in total. Tipu holds a degree in Business IT and specialised in the Network sector.

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