SSE to build 5G fibre ring through London sewers for O2 and Three
SSE Enterprise Telecoms has deepened its relationship with Three UK and added Telefónica’s O2 UK to the mix by agreeing to build a fibre ring in London for 5G.
SSE announced in July 2018 that CK Hutchison’s Three UK had picked its wholesale backhaul service. That followed SSE’s launch of a wholesale access service a few weeks before.
The latest deal, announced today, is for SSE to build a London network for both Three and O2, using fibre largely installed in Thames Water’s waste water sewers in the capital. Both SSE and rival carrier Zayo have fibre attached to the side of London 19th-century sewers.
“Networks will fundamentally underpin the UK’s digital economy and will be essential to 5G services,” said Colin Sempill, managing director of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, which is owned by energy company SSE.
“With this high capacity core in the London sewers, Three UK and O2 are tapping into our unique, diverse connectivity and putting their networks in a strong position to trial 5G offerings, while enhancing existing services for their customers.”
SSE said the service would “significantly enhance Three UK and O2’s connectivity backhaul capabilities and pave the way for further 4G and 5G deployment by connecting cell sites and masts”.
The new partnership is intriguing because the deal transgresses the two existing deals in the UK to share mobile masts. O2 has a joint-venture mast company with Vodafone, Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (CTIL), while Three UK and BT’s mobile unit, EE, have a separate shared mast company, Mobile Broadband Network (MBNL).
Some years ago Three UK tried to buy O2 UK from the Telefónica group – but the European Commission blocked the £10.3 billion deal. Before the commission’s decision, there was much wrangling in the industry about how the mast-sharing companies could be untangled if the merger had gone ahead.
Today’s announcement hints at continuing cordial relationships between Three and O2 in the UK. Senior executives of both operators did not address that but they did talk of the partnership between them.
Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said: “New and innovative models are essential to improving the customer experience of mobile networks by increasing the availability of dark fibre for mobile backhaul and driving competition in the market. Our partnership with SSE Enterprise Telecoms and O2 is one of the first examples of using existing infrastructure to improve connectivity in an urban area.”
Brendan O’Reilly, CTO of O2, said: “This kind of agreement is essential to allow for continued investment and improvement of services for our customers. This partnership is a great example of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three UK and O2 coming together in a collaborative and innovative way to address the growing challenge and pressure of obtaining access to fibre for mobile backhaul in the UK.”