The Third Wave of Connectivity Evolution……Ultrafast
The advent of ultrafast speeds in the UK is heralding a new wave of connectivity evolution and the question of how we navigate it in the channel.
The first wave in the mid 90’s brought homes and businesses online for the first time through dial-up access, and businesses who wanted the most sophisticated technology could buy leased lines with maximum speeds of to 2Mb! (Can you imagine that speed in this day and age!)
The second wave saw bleeding-edge mass unbundling of exchanges for Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) and new Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) and Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) connectivity propositions. This is where TalkTalk Business disrupted the industry and have amassed a 25% market share in EAD and over 50% of the Wholesale broadband/Fibre to The Cabinet (FFTC) market.
This now brings us to the cusp of the third wave, ready to build on the previous successes. However, as in the early stages of any technological evolution, there are currently a myriad of proposed and existing technologies all of which deliver a range of speeds to the end customer. This now fragmented market will cause confusion which is less about the individual technologies themselves. The parts we need to piece together into a cohesive story are around clearly defined propositions, including proposition overlap, coverage and when these technologies will actually become viable options and at what price. Achieving this is the key to success.
Where are we today?
There are three main points we can be certain of:
- Broadband and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) still have a place due to coverage, with FTTC acceleration (upsell and new) expected to increase in line with increasing demand for bandwidth and in part fuelled by Ofcom’s recent announcement on price regulation
- Demand for 1Gb and 10Gb EAD will intensify due to performance, coverage and reducing price points
- It’s going to become complicated to proposition as each of the new technologies has their own merits
Beyond that the path forward is less clear. As demand for 1Gb speeds intensifies, Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) and talk of full fibre networks are fast becoming the buzz words. With Openreach announcing its Fibre First programme that aims to have 3 million premises in major cities hooked up with FTTP; which is a 50% increase on their previous plans. Competitors like Vodafone are aiming to have 5 million premises passed by 2025 and TalkTalk Business is looking to expand our own Ultra Fibre Optic (UFO) beyond York to cover 3 million premises.
We know copper lines are a legacy technology, and if full fibre was available everywhere they certainly would be, but the cost and time to deploy these networks is simply not a viable option. Therefore Openreach are maximising the last of the copper line potential with a part fibre/part copper delivery of new up to 330Mb products such as G.fast/SoG.fast.
The postcode lottery
We know G.fast and FTTP will start to accelerate this calendar/next calendar year – as FTTP/full fibre networks are in vogue. But if we are moving to a world where 1Gb is the lead, then is there a place for G.fast/SoGfast and the up to 330M speeds they offer? Are they redundant technologies (and investments) before they're even established?
The question really on products like G.fast/SoG.Fast/FTTP is to do with coverage and timing – what will be available, where and when. It’s almost a postcode lottery, and could lead to consumer and business frustration alike.
*Note: The premises passed/coverage are estimates based on what is known today and are therefore subject to interpretation/change
So where does this leave us?
The challenge for us as an industry is that it's going to become complicated to proposition connectivity as each of the new technologies has their own merits. The great news is that UK businesses have an insatiable demand for bandwidth, and we have lots of options available to us to satisfy it!
To quote the great man himself (David Bowie)….."I don't know where we’re (I'm) going from here but I can promise you it won't be boring"…