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Full-fibre broadband specialist VX Fiber is formally launching in the UK, bringing its open access model – which has been embraced by service providers in countries such as Germany and South Africa, as well as its native Sweden – to Britain for the first time.
Founded in 2014 by the former shareholders of open access fibre supplier Zitius after its sale to Scandinavian comms giant TeliaSonera, VX Fiber specialises in helping local authorities make a return on their investment in passive fibre-optic network assets.
In Sweden, many municipalities possess these assets after the Swedish government ploughed the money it made from the privatisation of the state-owned telco monopoly into local network builds.
Companies like Zitius, and subsequently VX Fiber, sprang up in response to this to support local authorities in Sweden and have been widely credited with making penetration of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services in Sweden among the highest in Europe, as well as supporting the development of Sweden’s digital economy and the subsequent boom in local “unicorns” such as mobile gaming firm King and music streaming service Spotify.
In the UK, many local councils also own some form of fibre asset – often installed to link council offices together – but according to VX Fiber chairman Mikael Sandberg, most are failing to realise the full benefit of these assets, both in financial and social terms.
“UK local authorities are ideally positioned to lead the charge in the roll-out of gigabit connectivity across the country. Government funding is available to them, but many don’t know where or how to begin the process. By unbundling the traditional model of telecoms infrastructure, the Vxfiber model enables limitless connectivity and offers endless possibilities for local authorities, service providers and users alike to take charge of their digital destiny,” said Sandberg.
Under the Swedish model, VX Fiber provides the active network equipment and management services to sit above the passive layer, which it says frees local authorities from dependence on established communications services providers (CSPs) to provide connectivity.
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It then partners with CSPs to offer their products directly to local subscribers using a self-provisioning web portal – usually co-branded with the authority to localise the offering – to give users greater insight into the cost and suitability of the different available service offerings.
Richard Watts, VX Fiber’s business development director and now UK sales and real estate head, told Computer Weekly there were multiple ways in which a local authority customer could exploit its owned network assets.
For example, with upcoming reforms to the business rates regime – set for 2020 – many local authorities are facing an even greater squeeze on their budgets. “Local councils have an economic dilemma. They have to attract businesses, and fibre broadband is the answer,” said Watts. One unnamed council in the south of England that wants to retain a large local tech firm is particularly keen on this aspect, he said.
Others, he said, might look to use their fibre to drive agendas around local regeneration projects, or social inclusion, for example, by enabling access in public housing or for the elderly.
In any case, by enabling the local authority to keep ultimate control of its network, rather than handing it over to a more traditional network owner, the asset can be tailored to the specific needs of the local area.
As well as broadband, said Watts, it could even be used to support more specialised services, such as smart home security or health monitoring.