The road to universal Gigabit connectivity

Philip Lee, head of wholesale at ITS Technology Group, explains how partners are the key to the company’s full fibre Faster Britain rollout.

How realistic is the government’s vision for universal Gigabit capable connectivity by 2033?

Always a necessity, delivering a Gigabit infrastructure across the entire UK is now a crucial part of ensuring the country’s economic success, both in the mid-term post Brexit and to support our economic recovery post-Covid in the short term. We are seeing and hearing this a lot, in fact, this is a fundamental part of Liverpool’s Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram’s Covid bounce back plan for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) tender we were awarded earlier this year which sees us leading the £30m rollout of 212km rich fibre spine across six local authorities.

The pandemic has put a new lens on the importance of fast, reliable connectivity, and we are proud to play our role in the vision by building our full fibre ‘Faster Britain’ network across the UK.

The task should not be underestimated. Universal coverage is going to take a lot of collaboration. The government’s ‘outside in funding’ approach to ensuring the harder to reach rural areas are covered is important, but the scale of the task outside these areas is also considerable. There are overlooked areas in plain sight, in towns, cities and business parks.

Over the last 12 months we have made significant investment into shifting to a wholesale and reseller partner approach, as collaborating with the channel is a really important way to understand where there is real demand for full fibre.

What opportunities has this vision created?

The fibre rollout has created many opportunities, not least it allows the channel to move away from

their reliance on the incumbent provider. A whole new generation of altnets are contributing to this rollout – in fact a report compiled by Point Topic for Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) in May this year revealed that the sector is four times larger than a decade ago and continues to attract significant private investment. The report also states that Gigabit infrastructure supplied by independent operators is expected to reach over 6.6 million premises at the end of 2021 with an estimated 1.1 million live connections made that are specialists in full fibre.

Unlike the incumbent, we are fibre specialists, our business models are built around fibre, and we are delivering pure fibre networks using the latest methods and technologies. ITS has always adopted a reuse, or a dig once approach, delivering fibre through existing ducts and infrastructure, which means we can build faster, and ultimately connect our partners’ customers quicker than the industry norm, to the extent that we have a ‘15 working days pledge’ to install on-net.

This fibre rollout is also creating more business opportunities for the channel, as it gives them more choice, control and agility. Having witnessed this step change, as a business we have gone a step further than traditional indirect models by launching a partner-led approach to identifying and building networks. This gives our partners an even greater degree of control, by effectively owning the customer end-to-end.

How important is collaboration with the channel?

In a word, very. Collaboration with the channel is vital to this scaling up. During 2020 we made significant investment into our indirect proposition, building on our reseller model, launching a wholesale division, and developing an all new partner portal and API to make it easier to sell connectivity. This investment has been key to how our network footprint has evolved. Of all the networks we built in 2020/21 so far, a third were partner-led, with many more networks identified this way across the UK coming soon.

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