Tag Archives: Broadband

Homes and businesses turning to independent providers for broadband connectivity, new report reveals

More than 5.5 million homes and businesses in the UK can now connect to an independent fibre broadband network, according to new figures published today. For the first time, the total number of live connections provided by the ‘alt nets’ is above 1m.

Compiled for the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) by Point Topic using data provided by independent network operators across the country, this year’s ‘Metrics for the UK independent network sector’ report shows that the sector has again doubled in size over the previous year.

The independent sector continues to pull in significant sums of private funding with investment and expenditure commitments predicted to reach £17.7bn by the end of 2025. When combined with the £12bn announced by BT Group, the £5bn announced by government, and £2bn planned by VM02, investment levels will exceed the previous estimates of £30bn for bringing next generation networks to every property in the UK.

INCA’s Chief Executive, Malcolm Corbett said: “This continued high level of investment, coupled with commitments from others in the private sector like BT and Virgin Media, and the money being put in by government, shows that the UK is on track, for the first time in its history, to have proper broadband infrastructure competition. Independent network operators are a key piece of this connectivity jigsaw which will offer consumers real choice and drive innovation in the broadband services they consume.”

The report also details operators’ concerns, which include;

  • planning and streetworks delays
  • the threat of overbuild from taxpayer-funded, Project Gigabit procurements
  • delivery times for services from Openreach or other operators (e.g., EAD circuits, PIA)
  • getting wayleaves
  • the impact of BDUK’s pause on community-led ISPs Gigabit Vouchers; and
  • access to skills and labour.

“This report shows the increasing maturity of the independent broadband sector”, commented INCA Chairman, Alex Blowers. “It is now transitioning from fundraising and planning mode to delivery and execution stage and is undeniably a key partner in the delivery of a 21st century digital UK. It is now crucial that the government and Ofcom ensure momentum is maintained, by evolving the underlying policy and regulatory framework in support of the infrastructure competition that has now arrived in the UK,” Mr Blowers continued.

The full report can be viewed at- https://www.inca.coop/2022-altnet-metrics.

For more information about their work or of INCA in general, please visit: https://www.inca.coop/.

Two new board members for independent broadband organisation

Appointments recognise increasing importance of alt-nets to UK broadband sector

London, UK, 21 February – INCA, the trade association for next generation broadband services, has made two new appointments to its board. Rosalind Singleton, CEO of Spring Fibre and Tim Stranack, Founder and Director of Community Fibre were confirmed in their new roles at the organisation’s recent Annual General Meeting.

The appointments come at a time when the contribution of alt-nets to the development of Gigabit Britain and to the UK economy has never been more important, especially with the government renewing commitments for the provision of access to 5G broadband for the “large majority” of households in last week’s Levelling Up white paper and with the setting of a new target for nationwide 1Gbps broadband to be achieved by 2030.

INCA Chairman Alex Blowers said, “We are delighted to welcome Ros and Tim to the INCA board. Both come with substantial experience in the sector and will play a vital role in what we are sure will be a crucial next 12-24 months in the future of the UK’s fixed telecoms sector”.

In addition to her role at Spring Fibre, Rosalind Singleton is also Chair of the UK5G Advisory Board, a member of the UK Government’s Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council and on Ofcom’s Spectrum Advisory Board. She is also a non-executive director of Alphawave PLC. She has over 30 years of experience in the technology sector and is an active angel investor and mentor for tech businesses with female founders.

Tim Stranack started his career in telecommunications in the 1990’s designing call centre systems first for Europ Assistance and then the Direct Line Group. It was while working for Westminster City Council that he realised the only way to achieve their digital inclusion ambitions was to have better broadband services. This led him to co-found Community Fibre Ltd which has since grown to become London’s largest fibre-only network. Tim has been Chair of INCA’s policy and regulatory special interest group in 2021.

For more information about their work or of INCA in general, please visit: https://www.inca.coop/.

Hundreds of North Wales public services to benefit from faster internet speeds as part of £8m project

VITAL public services including GP surgeries, libraries and hospitals are benefiting from ultrafast internet speeds and better connectivity.

The Coronavirus pandemic has not stopped major progress being made on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and North Wales Economic Ambition Board £8m roll-out of the highest quality gigabit capable broadband to 350 sites across Denbighshire, Anglesey, Conwy, Gwynedd, Flintshire and Wrexham.

The switch from copper-based provision – as part of its Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) Programme – has seen the DCMS work in partnership with the Ambition Board since the initial bid for funding was made in 2018.

Cllr Mark Pritchard, vice-chair of the Ambition Board and leader of Wrexham council, said the scheme will complement the digital programme which forms part of the £1bn North Wales Growth Deal.

“This project is future-proofing hundreds of public sector sites in North Wales,” said Cllr Pritchard.

“They will have access to the highest quality gigabit capability and connectivity as their demands increase and grow, with organisations continuing to adopt new technologies and improve how services are delivered.

“Primary care is one of the main areas in the project, and GP surgeries in every county in this region will benefit from significantly better connectivity to support new ways of communicating with patients and hospitals.”

He added: “The Coronavirus has greatly increased the need for better digital connectivity between residents and public services, and the LFFN will put councils and health boards in a stronger, more versatile position to manage future challenges.

“There has never been a better time to make these improvements and I am delighted with the progress made so far.”

Cadwgan Surgery in Old Colwyn is an example of a site to have benefited from the LFFN.

Senior partner Dr Dylan Parry has worked at the surgery for more than 20 years and says the investment has transformed their daily lives.

“We have 12,000 patients, so trying to work digitally with such a volume of work was difficult,” said Dr Parry.

“We had issues with software, a poor browsing experience and other problems that wasted clinical and administrative time, as well as decreasing productivity and leading to frustrations with remote working.

“Following the installation of faster broadband, we saw a huge improvement – there were immediate benefits.”

Other sites to have experienced a positive impact as part of the rollout were the Caia Park Estate Office in Wrexham, the Mental Health Support Service Team at Flint Castle Park, and the Muriau building in Conwy, home of a Tourist Information Centre and gift shop and a landmark in the World Heritage Site since the 1880s.

Conwy’s Cabinet Member for Modernisation, Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones, said: “We’ve committed to a series of digital programmes aimed at enhancing services, as well as extending fast connectivity solutions to areas where it is currently not available.

“We’re grateful for the North Wales Economic Ambition Board’s support, and for the support of UK and Welsh Government in these programmes.”

LFFN is a flagship initiative from the UK Government to stimulate network operators to extend the reach of gigabit capable broadband across the country.

Minister for Digital Infrastructure at the DCMS, Matt Warman, congratulated the local authorities in North Wales for collaborating with partners to drive the scheme forward.

“From Anglesey to Wrexham, to see the local authorities working together on this project is fantastic,” he said.

“That in turn will stimulate broader take-up amongst businesses and see the public and private sectors link up in a tangible way.

“Good progress has been made and it gives us an indication of how the digital landscape in Wales is changing, and what benefits faster broadband can bring.

“We are keen to go even further in partnership with the Welsh and UK Governments to make sure we roll out gigabit connections right across the region.”

The upgrades to end sites is being undertaken by the Welsh Government’s Wales-wide Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA) contract, delivered by BT. PSBA provides connectivity services to nearly 5,000 public sector sites across Wales.

Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters said: “I’m pleased to see this development in North Wales and that the public sector is already benefiting from the improvements made.

“The PSBA contract offered an instant solution to the North Wales Economic Ambition Board by providing an existing network for the whole of the public sector in Wales to use.

“The infrastructure being installed in this project also allows some homes and businesses near a public sector building to benefit from full fibre broadband.  Now more than ever we appreciate the importance of a fast, reliable broadband connection and it’s good to see this work underway in North Wales.”

Visit www.gov.wales/broadband for more information on availability of superfast broadband in Wales.

For more on North Wales Economic Ambition Board, email info@buegogleddcymru.co.uk or follow @BUEGogleddCymru (Welsh) or @NorthWalesEAB (English) on social media.

4th Utility and ITS agree eight-year partnership worth up to £15m

A pair of North West based internet providers have joined forces in a deal worth up to £15m as they bid to take on the UK’s broadband market and bring ultrafast connectivity to 500,000 businesses and homes.

Greater Manchester-based 4th Utility and Cheshire-based ITS Technology Group have this week rubber-stamped a new eight-year partnership that paves the way for the duo to accelerate the rollout of commercial grade fibre broadband.

With 4th Utility investing £15m into the project, the two companies plan to provide 100,000 homes with ultrafast connectivity in the next 12 months, rising to half a million within three years.

4th Utility, which recently received a long-term £25m investment from DIF Capital Partners, work with residential landlords, property developers and house builders to install and upgrade their properties with full fibre connectivity.

Meanwhile ITS design, build and operate gigabit capable full fibre digital networks, often re-using existing infrastructure which drastically speeds up installations, most taking just a few weeks.

Through its ‘Faster Britain’ full fibre network, ITS and 4th Utility will help meet the soaring demand for fast internet connections of gigabit capable connectivity.

As the Government promises 100% Gigabit capability by 2025 and with its announcement of Project Speed, the two companies expect to play a key role by rolling out the Faster Britain network across the UK.

4th Utility CEO, Tony Hughes, said, “This deal brings together two exciting UK broadband providers and by leveraging the ITS network, we will be able to significantly broaden our reach and the pace of our UK-wide rollout.

“We believe in investing in high-quality fibre infrastructure and we offer a reliable solution that means super-fast full fibre broadband can be ready to go from day one. That’s become more important than ever with so many people across the country now working from home for the foreseeable future.

“We’ll be rolling out thousands of new and retro fit installations in the coming months and we’re pleased to have agreed this long-term partnership that will allow us to deliver our ambitious plans for growth. We’re excited for the future, but we’re only just getting started.”

In September, 4th Utility revealed a huge recruitment drive that will see as many as 60 new roles created in Greater Manchester to support its UK expansion, with recruitment giant Morson Group providing HR support.

On the strategic partnership and plans for the coming years, ITS CEO, Daren Baythorpe, said: “We’re really excited to be working with 4th Utility. Our Faster Britain network has been lighting up whole regions of the UK with ultrafast full fibre and this partnership enables us to build more network to more places. The plans we’ve drawn up together are going to improve the digital lives of the homes and businesses we connect.”

The partnership between ITS and 4th Utility goes some way to supporting the broadband pledge which formed a major part of the Government’s election manifesto at the end of 2019. Earlier this year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the government would invest £5bn into its plan to roll out full-fibre broadband across the UK.

Homeworking here to stay for nine in 10 businesses as social restrictions tighten

Homeworking is set to become a permanent fixture for thousands of UK businesses as nine in 10 (86%) plan to offer more remote working options to their employees. The new research, commissioned by Zen Internet, found that the drive towards homeworking has been accelerated by the pandemic – with almost half (49%) saying their plans to expand remote working came as a result of Covid-19.

Businesses looking to offer more remote working options are clamouring to do so with a level of urgency. Seven in 10 (70%) plan to act within the next year and one in four (24%) are looking at between one and two years to implement. This marks a step change in business attitudes – only one in five (19%) offered and encouraged remote working as an option to their entire workforce pre-March 2020.

A number of big technology and financial services firms such as Google, Microsoft, Schroders and PwC have highlighted their intention to stick with remote working, and today’s research follows a BBC survey which suggested that 50 of the biggest UK employers had no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future.

Whilst businesses are eager to adopt homeworking, they are wary of teething issues and the need for infrastructure to support such modern, flexible working practices. With the rise of the prosumer which has been further facilitated by remote working reliable, ultrafast connectivity is key to thriving.

Top three teething troubles imperilling productivity for large businesses and SMEs

• Almost half (46%) of SMEs say that poor internet connections in staff homes is a major challenge, compared to a third (34%) of large businesses
• One in five SMEs (21%) and large businesses (18%) say staff are unable to access the company system from home
• One in 10 (12%) SMEs and one in six (17%) large businesses reference poor integration of communication systems as barriers to a smooth remote working process

These challenges are leading businesses to question whether they are fit for a remote working future with one in five (17%) that plan to offer more flexible working options stating they do not yet feel prepared.

New technologies for a new era

With homeworking embedding itself into company cultures, and colleagues suddenly spread across different locations, many businesses are looking to new technologies to support alternate ways of communicating with both internal and external stakeholders. Half (50%) of businesses are already using a cloud-based solution for integrating their communications channels, such as voice and video. This is the case for six in 10 (60%) large businesses, but only two fifths (40%) of SMEs. When it comes to future intentions, 45% of businesses do not currently use a cloud-based solution but would consider it. Almost two fifths (38%) of large businesses identify with this, compared to over half (53%) of SMEs.

This trend towards cloud communications looks set to accelerate, but companies are also looking at other technology to support their digital transformation. For example, a fifth (20%) of businesses say that over the next year they will prioritise investing in unified communications as a whole. Over the same period, more than a fifth (22%) of businesses will look to invest in providing / subsidising the cost of better home connectivity for their employees that work from home on a regular basis. Meanwhile, two fifths (39%) of businesses will invest in laptops and smart devices.

Paul Stobart, CEO, Zen Internet, said:

“The trend towards remote working signals a departure from the orthodoxy of the office. Accelerated by Covid-19, the phenomenon is set to root itself into our working lives as employers eye office space savings and employees crave the convenience of working from home on a regular basis. In particular, the rise of the prosumer has meant that reliable, ultrafast connectivity in the home is absolutely an essential commodity.

“Businesses of all sizes will need to adapt to this cultural shift in modern working practices by taking a pragmatic approach and adopting new technologies which can support the transition to remote working. This will ensure businesses can continue to communicate effectively with their customers, clients and colleagues.

“Whilst many businesses are equipping themselves for a remote future – embracing new, cloud-based communications solutions – some appear less prepared for new ways of working. These businesses should research their options and act now so that the challenges of dated technology and listless IT systems can be avoided down the line.”