Fibre and the channel: Busting the myths

Fibre and the channel: Busting the myths

Guy Miller, Fibre for Everyone Programme Director

Guy Miller, Fibre for Everyone Programme Director

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting at Connected Britain 2019, one of the UK’s largest telecommunications events. As TalkTalk Business was the sponsor of the brand-new Channel Britain Track, it seemed fitting that I investigated exactly what a full fibre rollout would look like for the channel.

Both the Government and Openreach have recently upgraded their ambitions to scale FTTP across the UK. Add to this the continued successful fundraises for the every-expanding universe of alternative independent network providers and its undoubtedly full steam ahead for Britain’s full fibre future.

Full Fibre empowers businesses to transform the way they operate, eliminating the curse of slow speeds and inherent unreliability of copper connections and allowing businesses to adopt new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and big data without connectivity constraints.

For such an advanced country, Britain’s digital infrastructure is woefully behind. We currently have around five or six percent full fibre coverage, while rival economies enjoy up to 80 percent. Our copper infrastructure is failing us, and many businesses are suffering the consequences of slow speeds and low capacity.  It’s time for the UK to catch up with the rest of the world. Although part-fibre products such as FTTC bridge the gap for now, our legacy copper infrastructure is in desperate need of replacement with full fibre to achieve the same levels of coverage that many other countries enjoy.

What’s driving the urgency for full fibre?

Fibre technology has been around for many years, yet there are several factors driving the urgency to roll full fibre out as a matter of urgency:

Fibre optic cablesGovernment support– There is no doubt that the government’s ambitious target of delivering full fibre to 15 million premises by 2025, and achieving nationwide coverage by 2033, is turning up the heat. They are currently allowing the market to solve this, but they will step in if we don’t

The rise of the AltNets – Britain’sfull fibre roll-out will only be realised if there is true infrastructure competition. The independent network builders have given Openreach a kick and since the altnets have pressed ahead with their plans there has been increased momentum from Openreach.

The promise of a simple future – Openreach has revealed their idea of the future, with a gloriously simplified product portfolio. It solves many of the WLR withdrawal challenges and full fibre delivers the reliability and confidence that the industry has been looking for.

How simple is fibre for the channel?

For the channel, an end state of customers on full fibre is a no-brainer. Fibre customers enjoy faster speeds, fewer faults and increased satisfaction. However, the complexity arises when we consider how, as channel providers, we are going to make full fibre a reality.

Although Openreach have a vision of a simplified product offering, we know that a full fibre rollout will come with its own set of challenges. Despite the promise of what fibre can bring, there will still be a monumental shift in encouraging users to adopt new technology and migrate them from the old to the new.

Working with a variety of FTTP access providers will create immense complexity. Each provider has their own set of technical standards, operational model, pricing, product variants, SLAs and customer journeys. Imagine a world where a 20-site business customers wants a network connected by 7 different FTTP providers.

What the future could look like for the Channel

It’s clear that the road to full fibre won’t come without challenges, however I believe that the success of full fibre rests on the shoulders of the FTTP providers working with the scale CPs who can guarantee customers, through managed migrations, whilst simplifying and standardising the customer experience.

The channel is ideally placed to educate the end customer on the benefits of FTTP and help them with their migration planning. They will need a great network partner, such as TalkTalk Business, to support them with access to a UK-wide footprint with a consistent service level that the end customer expects.

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