The alternative network providers enter 2019 with great ambitions. The latest stats from Point Topic show that the altnets now reach well over 1m premises with full fibre connections and up to 2m mainly rural premises are in reach of a wireless broadband network. The key companies in the sector are all predicting significant growth over the next two years supported by more than £3bn of investment announced in 2018.
Organisations in the sector regularly win industry awards for their ultrafast service quality and customer care. However it’s not all plain sailing. Building new networks involves detailed planning, civil engineering and street-works, obtaining wayleave rights to cross land and a myriad of other barriers. INCA members fully support the government’s ‘Barrier Busting Team’ and their efforts to help speed up deployment. Other concerns include ensuring that existing passive infrastructure can be fully utilised, thus reducing costs and speeding up network build. We also want to make sure that consumers have the best possible choice and the easiest switching mechanisms between old and new networks.
Brexit is of course a cause of uncertainty, but undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges to face the industry, government and regulator is ensuring that competitive investment continues to flow into the sector whilst guarding against the potential for predatory overbuild by BT Openreach. INCA members CityFibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear raised these issues towards the end of 2018 in a joint letter to the Secretary of State Jeremy Wright and Ofcom CEO Sharon White. With more than 30m premises in the UK to cover and challenging targets for both full fibre and 5G networks there is plenty of work to do by all players, Openreach, Virgin Media and the altnets. Delaying investment is in nobody’s interests.