Building the infrastructure that partners want and need

Full Fibre is ramping up its fibre build plans. Oliver Helm, CEO of Full Fibre, talks to Comms Business about how the company wants to work with the Channel.

Back in December, Full Fibre Limited was acquired by infrastructure investment fund Basalt in a deal that will see the company spread its wholesale fibre infrastructure to at least 500,000 additional premises by 2025.

Under the terms of the deal, Basalt took a majority interest in Full Fibre and will provide both capital investment and additional management expertise in growing successful infrastructure businesses.

Oliver Helm, CEO of Full Fibre, explained why Basalt was the perfect investor. He said, “Infrastructure is what they do, they understand that it’s a long-term game. There are a few wholesale operators out there, [like] Openreach and CityFibre, but other than that there’s not much wholesale in the market.

“It’s much more efficient to sell direct to the consumer because you get that higher margin at the start, which slightly derisks the model. But for us that wasn’t where we wanted to go. We want to focus on building, which is what we’re good at.”

Focus on wholesale

The company decided to adopt a wholesale business model when it was founded. Helm explained, “Acquiring customers is an expertise, and then building networks is a matter of expertise too. So, from our perspective, we focus on just one. We build as fast and as efficiently as we can, and we make sure we’re putting SLAs in place to make it viable.”

He added that there is a consumer angle that is equally as important. He said, “It’s about choice. Nobody wants to [be able to] buy only from one company. We’re giving them the choice. So if they want to shop on the quality of the service, or the quality of the TV packages offered or price, [they can].

“But it’s also about longevity. If we’re going to build networks for the long-term, they need to do more than just serve customers today. The world is moving, with 5G coming up, people are going to want to roam seamlessly from 5G outside their wi-fi inside. And that requires a more integrative, wholesale approach.

“These networks are going to change, and what [the fibre network] connects to is going to be wildly different over the next five to ten years.”

Building plans

The company recently announced 100,000 additional homes and businesses, across 11 locations, where the majority of premises will be able to access the company’s gigabit internet services within the next 12 months. Those locations are Leominster, Shrewsbury, Bayston Hill, Ross-on-Wye, Oswestry, Wem, Droitwich, Stourport-on-Severn, Malmesbury, Cam and Dursley.

Helm explained, “We’re focusing on our target demographic, which is market towns. Market towns were specific choice for us [as many] fibre builders are focused on the super urban, more dense areas.

“There are good reasons for that. But Covid has changed the world. People no longer want to live in a crowded city next to the business that they have to commute to every day on the tube, they want to work from home.

“We’ve seen bandwidth usage go through the roof, and we’ve seen copper networks creaking at the edges. People want to be able to work in smaller towns [and this is] an area that has been left behind. Fibre infrastructure, for us, is the equivalent to what would have been invested in railway or road links.

“When we go somewhere we will build to 100 per cent coverage in that area. Broadband now is a great leveller, and connectivity is a utility. You have to have it, and there should be ubiquitous access for everybody.”

Solving problems

The company will continue to focus on building its network quickly and efficiently. Part of that will involve building good relationships with local authorities and channel partners.

Meeting the needs of these stakeholders will be central to success. Helm explained, “Our partner ecosystem is the make and break of the business. It’s vital that we deliver services that they want and that they need. We facilitate partners at two levels.

“Right now, our partners are at the smaller end of the scale, because the network’s smaller, but as it grows we’re expecting to see national providers come on board.”