Time to profit from full fibre opportunities

Steve Mackervoy, Channel Sales Manager at Nextgenaccess, explains how FTTC ‘Superfast’ broadband frustrations present ripe opportunities for the channel.

Digital Britain is still a work in progress. Consumers, businesses and public sector users are waiting in anticipation, even though the majority are already connected to FTTC ‘Superfast’ broadband.

Unlike emerging FTTP ‘Full Fibre’ broadband, Superfast setups only take the fibre optic cable as far as the green cabinet at the end of the street. Businesses and homes are connected to those cabinets via a copper ‘last mile’ link. This puts a considerable dent in performance and quality of service. The facts speak for themselves: with FTTC, it’s possible to obtain download speeds of up to 80Mbit/s and upload speeds of up to 20Mbit/s.

Actual speeds ultimately depend on the distance between the premises and the cabinet but average download speeds are in the region of 60Mbit/s. By comparison, full fibre services offer up to 1Gbit/s symmetrical speeds of 1,000Mbit/s on both the download and upload. In the future, even higher speeds should become viable as the latest hardware fully optimises the fibre optic cable.

It’s encouraging to know government funding and BT Openreach commitments aim to give every business and household FTTP by 2033. But what do we do in the meantime? Consumer entertainment ‘nice to have’ benefits aside, can businesses afford to wait that long ‘making do’ with mediocre broadband services? The nation’s businesses and essential public services are crying out for FTTP to boost productivity, enable wider-scale flexible mobile working, and maximise digital services.

Silk purse from a sow’s ear…?

The good news is you can make an attractive and compelling business case here. The pent up demand that exists for FTTP offers near-term new businesses opportunities for ISPs, Comms and IT VARs… provided they can find a full fibre infrastructure provider prepared to take a long-term view.

This means the provider investing in the build out of new dark fibre infrastructure and also willing to take lower margins, thereby allowing partners the opportunity of layering margin-friendly annuity services over the top. For example, WAN, voice and data services and high speed Internet and Cloud access.

To make it viable, the network route must be carrier-neutral and highly selective, going where there’s identifiable latent demand and where no or few other providers have trodden before. Avoiding overbuild situations is key, with a need for sufficient underserved businesses and communities in the vicinity. That could include industrial estates, retail parks and new housing developments. Another approach is having an anchor tenant, such as a data centre, in place from the outset.

Further potential comes from local authorities looking to deploy LFFN networks to provide their council buildings, surgeries, schools and emergency services with ultrafast broadband services. Some of these may also offer full fibre network access to businesses in the wider community which provides plenty of opportunity for resellers.

It’s not what you do…

Choosing a provider capable of deploying fibre more quickly and cost-effectively than competitors is key. It will help to use one already licensed, and with a proven track record of leveraging BT Openreach infrastructure for deploying fibre networks under Duct and Pole Access (DPA) / Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA).

Using its existing infrastructure makes fibre deployment far quicker, less disruptive and significantly cheaper. In some cases, making use of Access To Infrastructure (ATI) legislation allows cost-effective fibre deployment along rail, motorway and canal routes.

Nextgenaccess recently used DPA/PIA to deliver a new high capacity 432 dark fibre route between Bristol and NGD, a hyperscale facility in South Wales recently acquired by Vantage Data Centers. It purposely ensured sufficient drop offs close to BT exchanges along the route, allowing carriers and local resellers to quickly connect up ultrafast broadband to potentially several thousand businesses and communities.

A similar PIA build approach is currently being taken as part of a large local authority LFFN project in South Essex. Nextgenaccess isn’t constrained to using PIA, it also uses code powers to build new route sections where Openreach doesn’t reach, or where diversity from BT is required.

In summary, the financial rewards available from the promise of FTTP are much closer than many resellers might imagine. Serving strategic business markets where FTTC is just not good enough presents attractive new opportunities to both specialist fibre infrastructure providers and their partners. Such fibre providers need to be innovative, nimble and have significant funding in place to allow resellers time to establish and grow profitable new customer relationships.

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 to inform and educate the Channel about the latest technology and business developments. Got a story? Get in touch – charlotte.hathway@markallengroup.com.

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