Vodafone UK and CityFibre have announced a partnership that will bring Gigabit fibre broadband to up to five million homes and businesses in the UK by the year 2025.
The FTTP (fibre-to-the-premise) network will be built, operated and owned by CityFibre but under the terms of the wholesale agreement, Vodafone will have the right to a period of exclusivity (mostly during the build phase of each city network) – that will allow the telco to market consumer broadband services on the FTTP network. Its duration? “Probably up to about to 3 years” said Nick Jeffery CEO of Vodafone UK, during a telephone briefing.
Greg Mesch, chief executive of CityFibre was keen to explain that once this period of exclusivity is over, the network will be open to all.
“We are a wholesale infrastructure,” said Mesch. “We are not a competitor at the retail level, all of our networks are open. The agreement only addresses the consumer side with Vodafone and they have some exclusivity during the build cycle. We would expect all major retailers to be across the scaled infrastructure and it’s just a matter of time, of when they come on.”
Though it should be noted that both parties have the right to extend the commercial terms of the agreement to expand fibre coverage to a further four million homes and businesses by the year 2025.
Construction of the first phase of the build out is due to begin in the first half of 2018 and will connect the first one million homes, completion is due to finish by 2021. Additionally through this agreement both CityFibre and Vodafone are delivering 50% of the UK Government’s target of ‘full fibre’ to 10 million homes and businesses.
But what about Openreach? In the past the incumbent wholesale operator which owns the majority of the UK’s legacy network, has expressed interest in co-investing in fibre with the likes of Vodafone. Commenting on that Jeffery said: “We are a committed investor in fibre and we’ve got a very clear strategy. Although we’re very pleased to making this announcement with CityFibre, we are open to all options, no doors are closed. And what we want to see is a dynamic and competitive fibre market in the UK. Connecting as many homes and as many users as possible.”
In the past Jeffery has been very vocal in his disapproval of the “monopolistic” strangle Openreach has had on the UK’s digital infrastructure and only last month accused its parent organisation BT Group, of being “slightly selfish and delaying the rollout of 5G”.
A message that was echoed again today “The agreement with CityFibre provides us with access to a superior product, at a lower cost and with better service conditions than the regulated wholesale terms offered by the incumbent operator to access legacy copper telephone broadband network. The UK has fallen far behind the rest of the world, trapped by the limited choice available on legacy networks. We look forward to working with CityFibre to build the Gigabit fibre network that the UK needs and deserves.”
Mesch it seems agrees with Jeffery’s thoughts adding: “The market has been held back too long, with everybody almost being forced to consume from one major incumbent operator for too long. Infrastructure competition is good, it’s great, it’s great for the consumer and it’s great for the UK plc’s.”