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Altnets come together to share infrastructure and boost fibre roll-outs where PIA is unavailable

Leading UK Altnets are taking action to ensure that the rollout of full fibre is not held back by inconsistencies in the availability of Openreach physical infrastructure. 

Many locations across the UK are being removed from Altnet and Openreach plans because Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) is not available or is unusable. Altnets are frequently having to deploy new infrastructure which has caused concern amongst some local communities and is increasing the cost and reducing the pace of fibre rollouts. 

A special interest group set up by INCA will encourage Altnets and others to share infrastructure to reduce the amount of street works and street furniture required to support the UK’s new full fibre networks.

Guy Miller, CEO of MS3 Networks and Chair of the new Infrastructure Sharing Group, said: “INCA members and the wider Altnet sector are focussed on delivering quality services at competitive prices to customers. To ensure that they can continue building quality networks without issue, this group has been formed to tackle one of the sector’s growing challenges. 

“The creation of the group has been well received by members, who are in agreement that sharing infrastructure should be prioritised when deploying networks, especially in areas where Openreach PIA is not available or at capacity. As the CEO of a network builder focussed in an area where PIA is not widely available, we know better than most the challenge this brings to us and the communities in which we operate”. 

PIA is an Openreach product that is needed by network builders to access poles and ducts when deploying fibre, for example when installing overhead fibre for the first time. Without sharing agreements existing outside of Openreach, this could lead to multiple new underground or overhead deployments to the same area resulting in unnecessary costs to the provider and increased disruption to local residents.

The Infrastructure Sharing Group will address the key issues faced by Altnets and look at opportunities for ‘sharing’ infrastructure between them and third parties. Aims of the group include options for Altnet infrastructure sharing at scale, speeding up deployment, improving the ability for Altnets to generate incremental revenue, and testing and implementation plans to reduce noise around pole deployments to improve conditions for local communities. 

The group will address the key PIA issues and propose solutions. Its scope of activities will explore:  

  • opportunities for sharing between Altnets and third parties; 
  • the possibilities of standardising commercial, technical and operational approaches to sharing; 
  • the suitability of the existing Access to Infrastructure Regulations framework; 
  • and the need for improved communication between all parties including local communities.

The group is one of several Special Interest Groups (SIGs) coordinated by INCA that address a a range of issues faced by Altnets, including labour and skills, policy and regulation, switching and wholesale, standards, and net zero. More information about INCA SIGs can be found here.