Industry Insight

Unbundling opens up options for high-capacity fibre

Simon Willmott - Neos Networks 16.9.png

Neos Networks accelerated its network expansion programme last year, improving access options for businesses to high-capacity fibre connectivity and facilitating rollout of advanced 5G services

As the race towards full fibre ratcheted up in the UK last year, business demand has soared for high-capacity connections to support the digital transformation.

This means that the higher the capacity and more integrated the services that wholesale providers can offer to business customers at a time where the big battle for full-fibre connections is on, the more “sticky” they will be for customers long-term.

In line with this, carrier Neos Networks made ambitious steps last year to accelerate its programme for unbundling BT exchanges to provide its customers with higher-capacity services from more locations across the UK, as part of its Project Edge expansion initiative. By adding over 300 in the space of just over a year, the company doubled its number of unbundled exchanges, hitting its 2021 year-end target of 550 slightly ahead of schedule last November.

“This means that Neos has substantially increased the scope of services it can offer to businesses,” says Simon Willmott, business development director for wholesale.

“The more you’re able to provide for your customers and the easier you are to do business with, the more they’ll do with you,” says Willmott. “This growth enables us to reach out to more businesses and locations than ever before – which, in turn, gives our partners access to more cost-effective solutions.”

The company’s offering includes a whole range of services, from Ethernet over FTTx, fibre Ethernet and dedicated internet access to cloud connect and dark fibre products, serving a range of wholesale customers, managed service providers, ISPs and network operators.

In light of its unbundling drive, Neos has reached a full-fibre footprint of more than 34,000km and says its rollout has now brought up to 100Gbps high-capacity connectivity within reach of almost 750,000 business postcodes across the UK.

Advanced 5G

The carrier’s rollout also helps underpin the deployment of advanced 5G services for its partner Three UK. High-capacity fibre can, for example, help to facilitate 5G services such as industrial internet-of-things (IIoT), as well as instant video streaming, and virtual and augmented reality.

And Willmott says that Neos presents an ideal option for those wanting to ensure resilient services, with its credentials shown by its provision of critical national infrastructure in the public sector, and work with sectors including energy, oil and gas, and marine coastguard services. “We’re probably a very natural and logical partner for customers wanting to ensure that their connectivity solutions are maintained at the highest possible level,” he says.

Though the main phase of Neos’s expansion took place last year, the company plans to keep on unbundling exchanges, with Willmott estimating that it might add 40 to 60 more exchanges this year and that reaching a figure of 750 in the coming years would give it a healthy reach to about 80% of the UK business market.

More recently, Neos also announced its entry into the access space (in addition to its data centre and exchanges models), with the deployment of “metro access networks” in Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester set to come on stream in early to mid-2022, and a further one planned for launch in London early next year.

The company says the first three of these access networks will bring fibre connectivity within the reach of almost 10,000 locally based businesses, while the London network will reach around 23,000 businesses.

Willmott explained that the networks will allow Neos to offer a full end-to-end service by enabling it to provide last-mile access rather than just access from exchanges, improving options for national companies seeking to integrate their regional centres. “That’s really exciting for us,” he says.

He also reflects that Neos has succeeded in carrying out its expansion amid the restrictions caused by COVID: “We’ve managed to do this despite some very challenging COVID-based situations around us. The team delivered on time and on budget.”

“Digital journey”

Alongside these network developments, Neos is moving to create a more integrated digital experience to support its customers, expanding the capabilities of its LIVEQUOTE portal. The pricing tool allows customers to generate quotes and place orders for connectivity products.

“We saw double the number of digital sales in the 12 months since we launched our enhanced portal. Our customers are pivotal in how we develop the tool further,” says Willmott.

The company has therefore been adding services to the portal over time and is looking to give customers more ability to access information and manage their services via the portal to provide them with an increasingly automated offering.

“In correspondence with the network roll-out, this all ties in with the increasing use of digital services,” says Willmott. “Bringing ourselves and our customers on a digital journey is something that we’re very keen to move forward and that we can see really helping to enhance the journey to a digital-first UK – crucial for resellers servicing modern businesses.”

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