Matthew Horwood

Ogi, MS3 push altnet-delivered gigabit Britain

Wales and north of England-based gigabit broadband networks providers reveal strategies to cash in on accelerated roll-out of full-fibre gigabit services to businesses and homes alike

Recent research from Point Topic has shown that the UK’s independent broadband network providers (altnets) collectively had a strong fourth quarter of 2023, with around 80,000 additions compared with the previous quarter of the year, with their consumer broadband base reaching an overall estimated 1.937 million connections. Now, two of the country’s leading altnets, Ogi and MS3 Networks, have revealed plans to push their presence further in their respective home bases of South Wales and Humberside.

Six months after announcing plans for a high-capacity digital route into south Wales, Ogi has now opened the network for business. Phase one of the company’s business plan is to deliver full-fibre connectivity to 150,000 premises in the south of Wales by 2025.

Using the public-owned motorway and trunk road network, Ogi is now installing a new diverse route into Wales over the Prince of Wales Bridge, through a network of dark fibre and micro-ducts mapping the public-owned trunk road network and creating a new diverse route along the southeast section of the M4 corridor. High-capacity fibre pairs and micro-ducts have now been installed over the Prince of Wales bridge, from where they pass through the Vantage Data Centre on the edge of Newport and on to the Stadium House internet exchange in the centre of Cardiff.

The 70km route offers a mix of wholesale products, and will look to allow carriers, hyperscalers, datacentres and internet service providers (ISPs) looking to expand in and beyond the region to boost capacity and resilience. The new products are designed to offer an alternative means to scale networks across the south of Wales – considered one of the fastest growing digital economies outside London – with capacity to grow and extend across south Wales and onto Ireland as demand increases.

New products including lit services are already in the pipeline, and future phases of the scheme could see high-capacity infrastructure reaching other parts of Wales – where Ogi is already rolling out domestic services – boosting local, Welsh and UK economies.

As the network opened, Ogi chief technology and operations officer Justin Leese said: “With billions being invested in new data centres around the world, the need for high-capacity connectivity and increasing resilience regionally – along with the expert support that goes with it – is pivotal if Wales is going to attract tomorrow’s tech leaders, today. The big data age is here; with technology like AI forging ahead a need for more space and network capacity. This new network puts Wales on the map as a place to do business confidently, boosting the opportunities for a sector that’s already worth over £8.5bn to the Welsh economy.”

Managing director of local broadcast production company Whisper Cymru Carys Owens added: “This is great news for Wales and for thriving industries like the broadcast and creative sectors. As we continue to push boundaries in high-quality content production here in Wales, the need for high-capacity, reliable connectivity – and diversity of networks – is fundamental. There used to be a perception that you have to leave south Wales to work on major projects in the creative industries, but our work shows that’s not the case. This news isn’t just about connectivity – it opens up the potential to bring more investment, more skills and more opportunities to the country. It’s a huge leap forward for industries like the creative sector and tech – and will really give us a competitive edge.”

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Expanded connectivity being key to driving regional business benefits was also highlighted by MS3 Networks. Citing December 2023 statistics from UK comms regulator Ofcom showing that 57% of UK homes now have access to full-fibre, up from 42%, the wholesale fibre network operator’s CEO, Guy Miller, said it was important that “the industry’s full-fibre foot remained firmly on the gas”.

Yet while the company said the industry must acknowledge full-fibre’s rising uptake, it warned that it must not ignore the fact many areas in the UK still suffer from a below-average service. In particular, it pointed to what it called the uneven distribution of broadband infrastructure across the UK.

Again citing Ofcom data on service costs, Miller added: “[This] means that the further north you go, the fewer the properties connected to the internet via full fibre. In the case of Hull, only one broadband provider has served homes and businesses for decades. The absence of competition has led to no incentives to reduce prices, ultimately resulting in Hull having some of the highest broadband costs in the UK.”

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