The UK superfast broadband arena finally has some new players. They're focused on building fiber networks in places that desperately need it. This was encouraging news for the British government and digital industry stakeholders that gathered for the recent NextGen 11 conference in Bristol.
"Our regular survey of alternative superfast infrastructure projects shows a second wave of players with new money entering the market," says Annelise Berendt, Senior Analyst at Point Topic. "While BT's plan to increase the pace of its next-generation network rollout, Virgin Media's 100Mbps network upgrade and Fujitsu's challenge for government money are well known, they are joined by several smaller players who have persuaded financiers to put up cash."
These new players include CityFibre, Gigaclear, Call Flow Solutions and Hypnotic.
"Meanwhile, Kingston Communications, the incumbent in Hull, has begun upgrading areas of its network for fibre-based services, launching a trial in September 2011," adds Berendt. "And there are other names getting involved through the BDUK framework such as Network Rail, Balfour Beatty and Thales in addition to BT and Fujitsu."
BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) is the agency charged with using over £500 million of government funds to help build superfast broadband where it would otherwise not be available. BDUK has created a ready-made bidding framework to ease the task for the local economic partnerships which will be charged with spending the money.
Seeking a Globally Competitive Broadband Infrastructure
CityFibre Holdings has acquired the part-built fibre-to-the-home network installed in Bournemouth by the now-defunct Fibrecity enterprise. From that base CityFibre is trying to raise the money to deploy fibre to one million homes and 50,000 businesses in secondary towns and cities.
Sub-loop unbundling pioneer, Rutland Telecom, has sold a majority stake to Gigaclear and has now outlined county-wide ambitions.
New player Hypnotic, which focuses on taking fibre to apartment blocks, announced its first deployment in October 2011, and Call Flow Solutions, already involved in publicly-funded projects in Kent, is rolling out commercial sub-loop unbundling installations in the village of West Peckham.
"With the BDUK funding allocation process now well underway, and new sources of private sector investment coming forward, this all looks promising for superfast broadband Britain," explains Berendt. "But on the other hand from past experience, we know it takes a long time for investment, plans and network rollouts to turn into real customers."
The prospect of a number of alternative superfast broadband networks also brings challenges in terms of network integration. Regardless, the launch of each new service provider is welcomed news to the proactive British policymakers who have tried to create the environment where the country can catch-up with the recognized global market leaders in Asia -- who already have invested heavily in superior telecoms infrastructure.