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More than 500 business parks around 40 UK towns and cities will get access to dense, full-fibre networks under a plan to be implemented by urban fibre network builder CityFibre, marking a new phase in its challenge to the BT Openreach network.
Business parks are notorious for being underserved by broadband services and, due to their location on the outskirts of major urban areas, many have been missed by the national, BT-led broadband roll-out, leaving many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to rely either on overpriced Ethernet or sub-standard consumer broadband connections to get by.
CityFibre said it had proven the demand for full-fibre connectivity in business parks in several of its ongoing Gigabit City projects, with pre-registration rates of 60% being recorded in some places. It hopes to supply 22,000 SMEs with gigabit infrastructure. Sites around Bristol, Coventry and Peterborough will be the first to be upgraded.
“After decades of underinvestment, Openreach’s antiquated network infrastructure is strangling our nation’s businesses. It is up to CityFibre to provide them with a viable and fit-for-purpose alternative, delivering a new generation of connectivity for our SMEs, the lifeblood of the UK economy,” said CityFibre chief executive Greg Mesch.
“Access to full-fibre connectivity is the only long-term solution, and this is currently either unavailable or so cost-prohibitive that it has remained out of reach for most. By extending our fibre-to-the-premises [FTTP] roll-out to business parks across our national network, we are bringing affordable, world-class connectivity to the doorsteps of thousands of businesses for the first time. This is preparing our cities for an inevitable future upgrade to fibre-to-the-home.”
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As is standard practice for CityFibre, which does not function as a communications services provider (CSP) itself, the networks will be made available to broadband providers and connectivity resellers on a wholesale basis. The firm hopes these partners will be able to offer ultrafast, symmetrical services at an entry-level price of around £120 per month – significantly cheaper than an Ethernet connection.
The firm is aiming to expand from its current base of 40 UK towns and cities to 100 in the next nine years, which it said would equate to 60% of UK businesses and 40% of homes outside London.
Digital and culture secretary Matt Hancock commented: “In the Autumn Statement, we committed to investing another £1bn in the UK’s digital infrastructure and to support the delivery of full-fibre broadband. Fibre is the future, so this announcement by CityFibre is another boost to help achieve our ambitious goals.”