The country needs full fibre

Even before the coronavirus crisis, CityFibre was committed to working with the UK government to realise bold ambitions of widespread full fibre coverage by 2025. That need has been amplified by the lockdowns put in place to contain the spread of the virus. We caught up with Andy Wilson, Head of Wholesale at CityFibre, to find out more.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How has Covid-19 impacted the fibre rollout?

Andy Wilson (AW): “Throughout the last few months, at the request of the Government, we have continued to build and install full fibre infrastructure which is absolutely critical in allowing society to function and our economy to recover. Our field-based staff and contractors have been designated as ‘key workers’ and despite the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, they continue to adhere to strict protocols on social distancing.

CBM: Can UK providers keep pace with the new levels of demand on the network?

AW: “Before the pandemic, the critical importance of building full fibre infrastructure in the UK had been made clear when the Prime Minister made the pre-election pledge of nationwide deployment by 2025. In recent months, the country has never been more acutely aware of just how important connectivity is in underpinning our day to day lives and how much the country needs full fibre.

“This will give even greater impetus for everyone in our sector to ensure they double down on their efforts to make the Government’s target happen. This critical initiative will underpin Britain’s longterm economic recovery from the Coronavirus crisis, helping to level-up the economy by enabling access to ultra-fast digital connectivity for all.

“The good news is CityFibre is all about building a network for the Gigabit age. Our full fibre infrastructure is enabling businesses to future-proof themselves and ensure that generations to come will not need to worry about meeting any increase in demand for digital services.”

CBM: Has CityFibre’s strategy changed because of COVID?

AW: “The events of 2020 have only served to accelerate CityFibre’s determination, ambition and plans to provide full fibre infrastructure to the UK and reinforce the critical nature of our up to £4 billion Gigabit City Investment Programme to deliver full fibre to up to eight million premises in over 100 towns and cities, which will be substantially completed by 2025.

“Throughout the coronavirus crisis we’ve kept our finger on the pulse of what business leaders are saying regarding the health of the economy, using expert insight from leading business consultancy firms to model what the road to recovery might look like. Just like all responsible businesses, we have used this insight and the valuable feedback of our own teams and partners to re-evaluate our plans and focus for 2020.

“Within our wholesale team one of the ways we’ve adapted our plans with partners is in helping them to identify new ways to champion themselves and their CityFibre off ering to new and existing customers. This has yielded tremendous results and seen sales almost back to pre-lockdown numbers.”

CBM: Have customer priorities changed?

AW: “Covid has only increased customer demand for stability and consistent performance from their connection. In the new, more flexible, working environment that is now being adopted, businesses need good upstream speeds for applications like Zoom or Teams to work efficiently.

“Asymmetric connections can’t deliver the consistent and reliable bandwidth they need. The key requirement is the need for greater flexibility, both technologically and commercially. From a technical perspective, CityFibre delivers greater flexibility through innovative products like Ethernet Flex 1G, which provides 200Mbps bandwidth as standard with an option to burst to 1Gbps as and when needed at no extra cost and with no prior requests – peace of mind that it’s just there when you need it.

“Commercially we know that Covid has presented serious financial challenges for businesses, which is why we’ve run several initiatives in 2020 such as a 12 month delay on installation cost payments for CityFibre Ethernet circuits, 90-day deferred billing on CityFibre Gigabit connections and a specific proposition developed in conjunction with NHSx to support care homes.”

CBM: Is the ISDN switch off more achievable now?

AW: “In recent months, we have seen businesses feeling increasingly hindered by the limitations of an ISDN connection – whether that is through an inability to run video calls, inflexible routing when staff need to work from home and inflexible pricing during furlough. What the Covid-19 crisis has also taught is that VoIP is good enough for every application you think of – whether that’s Teams and Zoom – so there’s zero reason for ISDN to remain.

“This simply gives greater impetus to the Government’s target of widespread full fi bre coverage by 2025 and why we are firmly committed to our roll out of full fibre to up to eight million premises over the next five years.”

CBM: Where do partners fit into all of this?

AW: “The opportunity is the same, but the need for full fibre is even more urgent and critical than it was before the pandemic. That presents a huge opportunity for our partners to accelerate their growth while playing a vital role in our nation’s recovery. The customers our wholesale partners serve need full fibre services more than ever. SMEs need strong support to recover and flourish as the country comes out of lockdown.

“Now is the time for our channel partners to join the mission to drive positive change in the UK’s connectivity landscape and capitalise on the huge scale of opportunity that our nationwide full fi bre roll out brings. This is why CityFibre is about more than just connecting businesses, it’s about supporting whole communities through a shared vision with our regional partners who act as local heroes and true champions for positive change.”

CBM: What are your expectations for the next 12-24 months?

AW: “Over the next two years the speed and momentum of our full fibre roll out will continue to gather pace. To facilitate this acceleration in our build programme, we plan to expand our growing pool of network construction partners by helping to hire up to 10,000 people over the next three years. They will play a key role in delivering the £4bn rollout of full fibre infrastructure to up to eight million premises across 100 towns and cities.

“Our vision is to bring our market-leading full fibre network to the channel’s customers in even more cities over the next 24 months and expand our product range with new introductions to empower businesses of every size with affordable gigabit-capable connectivity.”


This article was part of our ‘Road to Full Fibre’ supplement in September 2020.

Other articles from the supplement can be read on the links below:

A digital version of the full supplement can be accessed here.

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Charlotte Hathway

Charlotte is the editor of Comms Business and writes content that looks to inform and educate the Channel about the latest technology and business developments across the industry. Prior to her current role, she wrote for other MA Business titles New Electronics, Land Mobile and Critical Communications Today. Before moving into journalism, she spent five years working in public relations and has worked with various technology companies spanning telecommunications, cyber security and software development.

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