HomeInfraUK altnets announce fibre broadband infrastructure share scheme | Computer Weekly

UK altnets announce fibre broadband infrastructure share scheme | Computer Weekly

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The advance of the independent supplier sector has been one of the keys to the rapid pace of gigabit broadband roll-out across the UK, despite the difficulties in taking gigabit fibre networks to traditionally hard-to-reach places. To this day, many locations across the UK are removed from roll-out plans because physical infrastructure access (PIA) is not available or is unusable.

Llooking to address this issue, the altnets’ trade association Independent Network Cooperative Association (INCA) is taking action to ensure that the roll-out of full-fibre broadband is not held back by inconsistencies in the availability of physical infrastructure.

PIA is defined by INCA as a product belonging to broadband provider Openreach 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, INCA warns that 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.

In addition, INCA believes that currently altnets are frequently having to deploy new infrastructure, which has caused concern among some local communities and is increasing the cost and reducing the pace of full-fibre roll-outs.

The body’s new Infrastructure Sharing Group will aim to 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. 

Included in the group’s scope of activities will be 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.

“INCA members and the altnet sector are focused 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 issues,” said Guy Miller, CEO of altnet MS3 Networks and chair of the Infrastructure Sharing Group to tackle the issue.

“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 focused 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.”

Matt Rees, CTO of critical network infrastructure provider Neos Networks, added: “An interesting trend that could help infrastructure sharing in the fixed-network is an ‘open network’ approach, which involves the separation of hardware and software, allowing hardware from different vendors to work together. By the very nature of networks becoming more open, it makes it easier to extend services over the same physical infrastructure.

“With a large number of siloed networks being developed today, and at huge costs, sharing infrastructure will start to improve the economics of extending fibre-to-everything [FTTx], with significantly less disruption too.”

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