CityFibre expands strategic alliance with Bechtel to support fibre roll-out acceleration

After a huge ramp-up in nationwide full-fibre roll-out in the last 12 months, infrastructure provider secures support for ambitions to serve eight million homes

In the wake of receiving over £1.25bn of new investment, CityFibre has significantly extended and expanded its partnership with engineering, construction and project management firm Bechtel.

CEO Greg Mesch told the recent Connected Britain conference that his company had taken fibre broadband to underserved areas of the country that had been left behind by the incumbents and would continue to expand across the UK and to support his ambition.

The background to the programme is the plan by CityFibre, the UK’s largest alternative provider of wholesale fibre infrastructure, to support the continued acceleration of its roll-out to about one-third of the UK market by 2025 and the UK government’s desire to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband across the country by 2025, a legislative journey that began in January 2020.

All of the gigabit broadband networks delivered in CityFibre’s £4bn investment programme are located outside the M25 and the Greater London area.

Bechtel is best known for delivering major infrastructure projects across the globe and has extensive experience in the communications infrastructure market. It has more than seven decades’ experience in the UK market, managing major construction contracts including the Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1, and has overseen metro fibre and fibre to the premises (FTTP) roll-outs for AT&T, Verizon, XO and Google Fibre in the US and the Viatel Cerce Pan-European Network.

From the outset, CityFibre said Bechtel had not been used as an outsource provider, but instead has been contracted to work as part of its organisational structure. Indeed, Bechtel’s teams have been fully integrated into CityFibre’s organisational structure since September 2020, enabling CityFibre to accelerate the mobilisation of its 25 network construction partners and manage more than 60 parallel full town and city builds.

Bechtel has also helped to strengthen project controls to enhance operational management, establish controls around risk and change and increase productivity.

The new agreement is a five-year extension to the partnership and CityFibre says it will “fully leverage” Bechtel’s mega-project expertise in project controls, construction management, contracts management, and environment, safety and health. Bechtel will focus its leadership and construction management efforts in CityFibre’s north and south-east regions, areas with the greatest density of parallel builds.

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It will also continue to provide functional support across all regions, as well as developing resource models to ensure thousands more operatives are trained and available to build partners to help construct the network. Bechtel’s resourcing capabilities will also support CityFibre’s potential participation in Building Digital UK’s Project Gigabit programme to bring full-fibre to rural areas across the UK.

By the end of 2022, CityFibre expects to have more than 150 parallel full city, town and village builds under way. By the end of 2025, the roll-out is planned to reach about 285 locations and address up to eight million UK homes.

Mesch said: “It’s a pleasure to be extending our alliance with Bechtel after a hugely successful year as partners. Over the last 12 months, they have worked in lockstep with our teams to deliver an extraordinary acceleration of our roll-out. This pace will only increase as we commence new projects and maximise the productivity of each build.

“We are delighted that Bechtel, with its unparalleled experience of complex, scaled construction projects, will be working alongside us in the years ahead as we continue to build the UK’s finest full-fibre infrastructure platform.”

John Williams, infrastructure managing director at Bechtel UK & Ireland, added: “We are really proud of what we have achieved with CityFibre in only a year. This new alliance will deepen our partnership, help sustain CityFibre’s incredible growth trajectory and help future-proof the nation’s digital infrastructure for communities across the UK.”

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