Small UK firms laying fibre put BT's Openreach to shame – report

But former state monopoly still the biggest single investor

Fibre-building minnows passed nearly one million FTTP connections last year – more than double the amount BT's Openreach managed, according to a report from an industry body.

The report by Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), claimed the latest figures place altnets collectively as the third competitor in new full fibre infrastructure provision, alongside BT Openreach and Virgin Media.

It did not break down which providers deployed the most, although the biggest players are likely to be rural broadband pusher Gigaclear, CityFibre and Hyperoptic.

Earlier this year, Openreach said it was already on track to reach 600,000 full fibre connections under existing deployment plans.

After much criticism for dragging its feet on fibre investment, the incumbent has said it will connect three million premises to full fibre by 2020, up 50 per cent on its previous goal.

Digital and Culture minister Margot James said:

"It's fantastic to see the growth of the new companies building fibre and wireless networks. We're creating the right environment to stimulate industry investment, and I'm delighted by the altnets' ambitious plans to reach millions more homes and businesses over the next few years."

INCA claims that by 2025, the number of premises passed via full fibre infrastructure supplied by altnets could rise to cover up to 14.25 million homes and business.

However, that figure does not take into account the problems of overbuild.

When INCA surveyed the altnets about their top concerns, overbuild by Openreach or other operators was named top of the list of things keeping them awake at night.

Access to suitable backhaul services and engaging with developers and/or local authorities on new build housing plans - such as wayleaves, permits and permissions - were among the other top concerns.

A raft of ISPs have recently committed to boosting Blighty's lacklustre full-fibre penetration, which is currently just 2 per cent.

TalkTalk said it plans to bring full fibre speeds of 1Gbps to three million premises in the UK, by creating an independent company with a total investment of around £1.5bn, while Vodafone has inked a deal for a full-fibre network built by CityFibre, which could connect up to 5 million premises over the next eight years.

However, Virgin's fibre-building plans have hit a roadblock. As of last November the firm had managed just 376,000, having previously predicted it would add 700,000 to 800,000 in 2017. ®

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