26 June 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
UK energy company SSE is launching a wholesale backhaul service today to compete with BT Wholesale and Virgin Media Business.
SSE Enterprise Telecoms will offer 100G and faster
connections to mobile towers or from BT exchanges into core
networks to companies such Sky and TalkTalk, as well as to
broadband urban operators such as CityFibre.
Services will be launched by the end of the year from 29 or 30
exchanges, extending to 170 over time. Ultimately SSE has its
sights on 450-500 exchanges, said Conrad Mallon, the
company’s chief technical architect.
"The fibre we’re using is a mixture of third party
and some digs of our own," Mallon told Capacity.
"We’re putting leading-edge technology in that
fibre to provide multi-terabit capacity to every BT exchange."
SSE is not using BT fibre, he added.
Infinera will be supplying SSE with kit developed following its
acquisition of Swedish company Transmode three years ago. "It
will offer 100G services – and multiples of 100G at a
competitive rate," said Mallon.
He said that rivals, which offer 10G services, charge pro
rata for multiples of 10G. However, he would not give
Capacity SSE’s rates. "That would get me
into all sorts of trouble."
SSE "can support 18Tbps of capacity out of every exchange with
this technology", he said.
The first wholesale customer traffic will be on
SSE’s network "in the second half of this year"
– a period that starts at the weekend but "it finishes
in December". SSE plans to operate the service in England,
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, he said.
SSE’s parent company is one of the partners in the
last candidate for the contract to build the Republic of Ireland’s national
rural broadband network – along with Irish metro
operator Enet and infrastructure investor John Laing.
SSE Enterprise Telecoms is not formally connected with the
Irish National Broadband Plan (NBP), said Mallon, though he
admitted that he’d worked with the consortium as a
At the same time SSE – whose parent used to be called
Scottish and Southern Energy – is looking at ways of
offering last-mile services in the UK, he added. "We have
potential mobile network operator customers for things like 5G
masts, that will need a huge amount of connectivity.
We’re also talking to some of the service
providers about how we can help them service fibre-to-the-home,
mostly as partners."
SSE has a window of opportunity because BT’s
last-mile subsidiary, Openreach, had suspended plans to offer dark fibre access
(DFA) after a regulatory dispute. The Competition Appeals
Tribunal ruled in August 2017 that Ofcom, the UK regulator, had
"erred" on its dark fibre rules, meaning that an obligation for
Openreach to launch DFA in October was removed.
According to Mallon, around six service providers had been
planning to use Openreach’s DFA service to offer
something similar to what SSE is now planning. "Our initial
plan was to build this via the BT dark fibre between key
exchanges. All [six] had tenders from equipment
Now Ofcom is "back to the drawing board" and last October Openreach started a public consultation on a
possible alternative and it launched a virtual dark-fibre service in
April "If BT does make DFA available others could build
similar networks, but we’ve got the commercial
lead," said Mallon.