Vodafone-CityFibre deal ‘to outstrip Openreach’ in UK FTTH

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Vodafone is claiming that a new deal with CityFibre will make it the biggest full fibre provider in the UK.

The company – which already uses BT’s Openreach to connect customers – said the deal will see Vodafone “able to offer full fibre to more homes than any other broadband provider”.

CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch said: “Through our strategic partnership, Vodafone has made a powerful decision to back CityFibre and help establish wholesale infrastructure competition for the UK.”

CityFibre, backed by Goldman Sachs and other private investors, last month appointed former UK government marketing official Dan Ramsay as its CMO.

Max Taylor, consumer director at Vodafone UK, said: “We’re set to become Britain’s largest full fibre provider, and we’re making the fastest broadband, with a premium package of features and benefits, even more accessible than ever with this great new offer.”

Mesch said: “Thanks in large part to its continued support, CityFibre has now emerged as the nation’s leading independent full fibre platform, with the best wholesale products, attractive economics and a network scaling rapidly across the UK.”

He said the company plans to have fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) available to more than eight million premises by early 2022.

It and others are in a race with Openreach, whose director of fibre first, James Tappenden, told Capacity in October that it wants to put fibre into 25 million homes and businesses by the end of 2026. “We are now at 5.5 million, so we have 19.5 million to go,” he said in an interview.

Taylor, consumer director at Vodafone UK, said: “Consumers need competition in the broadband space, and we’re committed to delivering that. Our partnership approach allows us to bring full fibre to more homes than any other provider, ensuring families have more choice and more competitive pricing than ever before.

Paolo Pescatore of analyst firm PP Foresight said “This latest move allows both companies [CityFibre and Vodafone] to up the ante in the race for fibre supremacy. [It] provides CityFibre with long term certainty and reinforces Vodafone’s position as the partner of choice.”

Pescatore said the deal “significantly propels Vodafone to be in pole position as an aggregator of connectivity as well as services providing users with more choice”. And, he noted, it “raises questions about Virgin Media O2’s position as a wholesale provider of its own network”. Virgin Media O2, a combination of Liberty Global’s cable network and Telefónica’s O2, has said it wants to expand its FTTH network to reach 22 million homes by 2028.

In today’s announcement, Vodafone and CityFibre have not given any target in terms of number of homes. They said: “The rollout will deploy dense full fibre infrastructure in 285 cities, towns and villages across the country by 2025, and support the construction of a new national access network which will make it easier and faster for Vodafone to bring their full fibre services to market.”