09 November 2017
| Natalie Bannerman
Vodafone UK and CityFibre have announced a partnership that will bring Gigabit fibre broadband to up to five million homes and businesses in the UK by the year 2025.
The FTTP (fibre-to-the-premise) network will be built,
operated and owned by CityFibre but under the terms of the
wholesale agreement, Vodafone will have the right to a period
of exclusivity (mostly during the build phase of each city
network) - that will allow the telco to market consumer
broadband services on the FTTP network. Its duration?
"Probably up to about to 3 years" said Nick Jeffery CEO of
Vodafone UK, during a telephone briefing.
Greg Mesch, chief executive of CityFibre was keen to explain
that once this period of exclusivity is over, the network will
be open to all.
"We are a wholesale infrastructure," said Mesch. "We are not
a competitor at the retail level, all of our networks are open.
The agreement only addresses the consumer side with Vodafone
and they have some exclusivity during the build cycle. We would
expect all major retailers to be across the scaled
infrastructure and it’s just a matter of time, of
when they come on."
Though it should be noted that both parties have the right
to extend the commercial terms of the agreement to expand fibre
coverage to a further four million homes and businesses by the
Construction of the first phase of the build out is due to
begin in the first half of 2018 and will connect the first one
million homes, completion is due to finish by 2021.
Additionally through this agreement both CityFibre and Vodafone
are delivering 50% of the UK Government’s target
of 'full fibre’ to 10 million homes and
But what about Openreach?
In the past the incumbent wholesale operator which owns the
majority of the UK’s legacy network, has expressed
interest in co-investing in fibre with the likes of
Vodafone. Commenting on that Jeffery said: "We are a
committed investor in fibre and we’ve got a very
clear strategy. Although we’re very pleased to
making this announcement with CityFibre, we are open to all
options, no doors are closed. And what we want to see is a
dynamic and competitive fibre market in the UK. Connecting as
many homes and as many users as possible."
In the past Jeffery has been very vocal in his disapproval
of the "monopolistic" strangle Openreach has had on the
UK’s digital infrastructure and only last month
accused its parent organisation BT Group, of
being "slightly selfish and delaying the rollout of
A message that was echoed again today "The agreement with
CityFibre provides us with access to a superior product, at a
lower cost and with better service conditions than the
regulated wholesale terms offered by the incumbent operator to
access legacy copper telephone broadband network. The UK has
fallen far behind the rest of the world, trapped by the limited
choice available on legacy networks. We look forward to working
with CityFibre to build the Gigabit fibre network that the UK
needs and deserves."
Mesch it seems agrees with Jeffery’s thoughts
adding: "The market has been held back too long, with everybody
almost being forced to consume from one major incumbent
operator for too long. Infrastructure competition is good,
it’s great, it’s great for the
consumer and it’s great for the UK
When asked if the announcement was at all influenced by the
UK’s imminent departure from the EU, Mesah said:
"We’ve been working on this for 6 years and 10
months. It’s just coincidence that it just happens
to be timed with BT consultation and Brexit. But generally
speaking if the UK going to go on its own then one of the
things a service based economy must know is that a service
based economy runs on the internet and the internet runs
phenomenally well on fibre."
No official word has been given on which cities the FTTP
will be deployed in, "we’ll be announcing those in
a series of rolling announcements over the coming year," said
Mesch. "But it’ll be out the 42 cities
we’re currently operate in."
"This agreement will unlock the UK’s full fibre
future and is a major step forward in delivering our vision for
a Gigabit Britain. With this commitment from Vodafone, we have
a partner with whom we can transform the digital capabilities
of millions of homes and businesses and establish an
unassailable wholesale infrastructure position across 20% of
the UK broadband market," concluded Mesch.
FTTP networks use fibre-optic cables for every stage of the
connection offering broadband services capable of Gigabit
speeds (1,000 mbps). And according to Jeffery they are
undoubtedly superior to the old networks that rely on old
copper telephone lines.
"The point is, relying on a copper network deployed in the
last century in the belief that you can stretch that network to
the limits of psychics and beyond in order to give this country
the infrastructure its needs is frankly not credible. What this
country needs is full fibre to the premise at scale."