Turning Fiber into Business Services

Summary Bullets:

• Amidst all the fiber network hype and almost daily announcements of new infrastructure plans, Vodafone’s launch of Ethernet services over CityFibre networks means that UK enterprises can now start to benefit from them.

• Enterprises should be aware how fiber expansion can offer an enhanced work from home experience and how emerging technologies (e.g., hollow core fiber) may support advanced services.

Fiber network roll-out announcements have been coming thick and fast recently, but now UK enterprises can finally benefit from actual services, marking a key staging post.

Over recent weeks, there have been announcements on fiber deployment from CityFibre, BT/Openreach, Virgin Media O2, and numerous smaller altnets – including Upp’s announcement on June 1, 2021 that it will invest GBP 1 billion to deploy FTTH to a million premises by 2025.

So far, the focus has been on investment models, premises passed, and connection speeds – which has been of interest to analysts but less so to enterprises. Any actual services have tended to focus on the consumer segment, but now businesses of all sizes and resellers stand to benefit from these fiber builds.

Vodafone has announced that it is launching Ethernet services over its partner CityFibre’s network in Cambridge, Coventry, and Peterborough, with Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Portsmouth, and Southend-on-Sea to follow. The new service is positioned as offering a tailored private data network on a single or multiple premises, and as a complement to Vodafone’s full-fiber (FTTP) broadband.

This is potentially great news for UK enterprises as they get a growing range of high-bandwidth choices. Even those businesses located in more rural areas – defined as the final third/Geographic Area 3 by Ofcom – are getting access to fiber.

Openreach announced on May 28, 2021 its plans to roll out full-fiber broadband to 3 million premises in more rural areas. In addition, niche providers like Upp and others like B4RN, Gigaclear, and CommunityFibre are looking to target particular geographies.

The availability of these fiber-enabled services also happily coincides with a trend towards working from home, an explosion of business start-ups, and reports of a growing proportion of UK plc looking to relocate outside of larger cities in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Developments such as BT’s ‘hollow core’ technology at its Adastral Park research labs indicate that the fiber revolution still has further enhancements up its technological sleeve.

How long can this land-grab last? In some ways it is reminiscent of the UK’s cable industry which saw multiple local franchises eventually combine to form what is now part of Virgin Media O2, so market consolidation looks inevitable over time, which is no surprise coming the day after Virgin Media O2 was officially launched as the UK’s biggest ever telecoms merger.

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