Fibre company wholesales BT ducts to connect hyperscale data centre

Fibre company wholesales BT ducts to connect hyperscale data centre

Mark Weller Nextgenaccess.jpg

Independent fibre company Nextgenaccess is using wholesale access to BT’s ducts to connect a hyperscale data centre in south Wales.

The connection – between Bradley Stoke near Bristol to a hyperscale data centre near Newport in south Wales – runs around 67km, including 4km across the old Severn Bridge.

Nextgenaccess uses its right to get wholesale access to ducts under the regulator’s duct and pole access (DPA) or physical infrastructure access (PIA) ruling – something duct owner BT resisted until the UK regulator, Ofcom, stepped in a few years ago.

“This is our longest deployment yet,” Mark Weller (pictured), managing director of Nextgenaccess, told Capacity.

At the Welsh end of the 432-fibre connection is a data centre belonging to Next Generation Data (NGD), an unrelated company despite its similar name.

NGD wanted a number of routes into its data centre, added Weller. Other carriers provide links through the new Severn Bridge and the Severn rail tunnel. “Hyperscalers are such big users they’ve changed the rules of the industry,” said Weller.

Across the old Severn Bridge itself the fibre company splits the connection into two separate cables, with a total of 864 fibres, to add diversity. They both run in a metal tunnel under the roadway, part of the bridge’s structure.

One of the NGD data centre’s key users is SSE Enterprise Telecoms, which has committed to talking what Weller calls “multiple fibre pairs” on the new Bristol-Newport route, connecting to its 12,000km UK-wide fibre network. Nextgenaccess announced its deal with SSE last September. 

Weller said: “Our DPA/PIA licence enables us to deploy fibre far more quickly with minimum disruption. If we had followed the traditional road dig approach it would have taken over five times as long and cost more than ten times as much.”

Simon Bearne, commercial director of the data centre, added: “The new totally independent dark fibre route is a key addition to NGD’s expanding list of connectivity options. It allows our major customers to have more choice, flexibility and control over how and with whom their ultrafast or custom fibre services are provided.”

Nextgenaccess started three years ago with investment by Amber Infrastructure. In 2017 the UK government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority appointed Amber as manager of its National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF).

In November 2019 Nextgenaccess announced a 20-year concession with UK high-speed rail operator HS1, which runs from central London to the Channel Tunnel.