TalkTalk creates new UK wholesale fibre carrier, FibreNation

Tristia Harrison.jpg

UK operator TalkTalk has created a new fibre company, FibreNation, that will provide wholesale services to it and another BT rival, Sky.

FibreNation will take over the existing fibre project in York and expand to three other Yorkshire towns, Harrogate, Ripon and Knaresborough, with the aim of expanding the total footprint to over 100,000 premises.

“For too long, Britain has trailed the rest of the world when it comes to broadband speed and reliability,” said TalkTalk CEO Tristia Harrison (pictured). “We’re determined to change that and invest in the faster, more reliable broadband Britain deserves. This is just the beginning of our plans to be at the heart of Britain’s full fibre future.”

Ownership is still unclear. TalkTalk said it is in talks with potential partners “to find the appropriate long-term capital structure for FibreNation”.

TalkTalk confirmed that Paul Reynolds, the former CEO of BT Wholesale and later of Telecom New Zealand, will chair FibreNation.

“This infrastructure will transform how families and businesses use the internet and I’m committed to ensuring it’s affordable to all,” said Reynolds. “I’m delighted to have two of the UK’s largest internet service providers as customers and look forward to working with them to deliver the faster, more reliable broadband Britain needs.”

While at BT Wholesale Reynolds played a key part in creating Openreach as BT’s last-mile operation, offering copper and later fibre to rival retail companies. Then he went to Telecom New Zealand, where he split the group into two separately owned companies: Chorus – a New Zealand version of Openreach – and Spark, the services company.

TalkTalk said it wants to roll out full fibre broadband to three million homes and businesses. “We’re delighted to launch FibreNation and set out our plan to deliver world class broadband to three million homes and businesses,” said Harrison.

TalkTalk said it will be the first customer on FibreNation, wholesaling access to the network to sell full fibre services to its customers. The group is in discussions with potential partners, including Infracapital, “to develop an appropriate long-term capital structure for FibreNation”. However, it added: “TalkTalk and Infracapital will not be progressing on the basis of the heads of terms announced in February 2018,” – but it gave no clearer idea of its plans to fund the business.

Reynolds said: “Having rolled out full fibre networks around the world, I’m excited to start building in Britain.”

The CEO of FibreNation will be Neil McArthur, founder of Opal Telecom and former managing director of TalkTalk Technology. He replaces Charles Bligh, who “has decided to pursue other opportunities and will not now join FibreNation”. A former IBM executive, Bligh ran TalkTalk Business from 2011.