back to article BT, beware: Cityfibre reveals plan to shovel £2.5bn under Britain's rural streets

Privately-owned broadband biz CityFibre declared this morning that it would spend £2.5bn on building out full-fibre connections to British homes. The company, which was sold for £537m earlier this year to a brace of investment funds, said in a statement that its spending plans are based on extending its network out from …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Rural streets?

    If the headline writer thinks Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Aberdeen are rural they need to get out more.

    1. Rupert Fiennes Silver badge

      Re: Rural streets?

      In those rural areas, there's not much to get out for :-)

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Rural streets?

      To 'far too many' not being IN London IS rural.

      Brilliant warm sunny October day here, with farmer Giles McSpreadin working not 100 yard away in the rolling fields my humble residence overlooks.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Rural streets?

      They forgot to mention some of the other villages on the list, such as Edinburgh, Leeds and Coventry. They are definitely rural backwaters.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: Rural streets?

        Considering Leeds is one of the greenest cities in Europe I can kind of see why...

    4. hplasm Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Rural streets?

      Not London?

      Rural.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rural streets?

        Not Marylebone?

        Rural.

    5. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Rural streets?

      Well the streets are rural considering every other road in Milton Keynes is a roundabout!

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: MK Roundabout?

        Don't forget the Concrete Cows.

    6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Rural streets?

      Peterborough: 200,000 people living within 5 miles of city centre.

      Where I live: 2000 people within 5 miles. There ain't 200,000 people within 50 miles!

      But somehow we seem to have FTTP, and Openreach didn't even have to dig up the streets (overhead).

      1. localzuk

        Re: Rural streets?

        @Pen-y-gors

        I'd place money on their being a BT or OpenReach director living in that area...

    7. Oh Matron!

      Re: Rural streets?

      According to the Environmental Trust, 49% of the London boroughs is green space... That's "almost" rural :-)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) internet connections."

    Wasn't there another similarly-named ISP promising to do that a few years ago, with the same business model, same management team (give or take) and rollouts started but largely abandoned in Bournemouth, Dundee, Australia (NBN), etc?

    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06585858/officers

    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06586083/officers

    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06555306/officers

    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/nsI-AsDAob35PI0TLrd5DlRobP0/appointments

    1. Anna Logg

      thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that

      As a resident of the Bournemouth area the company name did seem familiar and I did the same quick Companies House search; I think all there is to show for it here is some dug up roads and pavements. Things got very messy! :-

      https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/15102417.100_roads_dug_up_and_work_abandoned__men_finally_jailed_for___160m_broadband_fraud/

      or line wrap friendly URL:-

      https://tinyurl.com/y8p72xb6

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that

        Dunno if related or not, but Cityfibre networks actually exist already. They connected up all the council buildings in Edinburgh a couple of years back, so the Vodafone deal is just an extension of that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that

          "Cityfibre networks actually exist already. They connected up all the council buildings in Edinburgh a couple of years back,"

          This one?

          https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/09/cityfibre-appoint-ftth-development-boss-for-edinburgh-and-stirling.html

          There's a bit of a difference between

          a) a citywide LAN connecting a few dozen buildings all belonging to basically the same organisation (which has been done by various people in various places, and where the cost per connect usually isn't a huge factor in the commercial success)

          and

          b) a massive fibre to the premises rollout where the cost per connect is absolutely critical to commercial success, as is the performance of the ISP and their backbone (have you seen the recent comments on Vodafone's performance as a mass market retail ISP?)

          "the Vodafone deal is just an extension of that."

          If you say so. See above.

          And also see:

          "CityFibre Holdings announces the successful restructuring of acquired firms H2O Networks and Fibrecity Holdings" [source:

          https://www.cityfibre.com/news/20121116cityfibre-holdings-announces-the-successful-restructuring-of-acquired-firms-h2o-networks-and-fibrecity-holdings/

          The new owner of troubled fibre optic companies strikes deal with banks to stabilise assets, customers and employees.

          CityFibre Holdings Ltd has today announced that it has successfully concluded the restructuring of the companies it acquired earlier this year from i3 Group, which includes H2O Networks, Fibrecity Holdings and Opencity Media.

          The restructuring of these businesses and the transference of all assets to CityFibre has been completed with the full consent of the banks that originally funded them. This brings to a conclusion a period of insecurity faced by the customers and suppliers to these businesses.

          Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre said: “The last few months have been very difficult for all those that have been affected. While restructuring the businesses, it was really important for us to save and protect the customer contracts, and the fibre to the home and metropolitan fibre optic networks. We hope that this restructure will come as good news for all those that have been impacted by the abrupt halt to works by our predecessors, including employees, customers, residents in the Fibrecity areas and suppliers.

          [continues]

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that

        "or line wrap friendly URL:-"

        It is quite easy to add a hyperlink under any text in a comment. AFAIK there is no particular length limit using that method.

        You need the following HTML formatting - where ^ here should be written as a < character

        ^A HREF ="http...">follow my link^/A>

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that

          Oops! there is an unwanted space - it should be HREF=

  3. adam payne Silver badge

    Privately-owned broadband biz CityFibre declared this morning that it would spend £2.5bn on building out full-fibre connections to British homes.

    BT's response to this will be to take cap off and run to the government. If they even respond at all thinking about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More likely is that they will put in FTTP in exactly the same place.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Meanwhile Virgin Media's response...

      ...will be to wait for them to go out of business on the back of the huge debts incurred when the digging-up of pavements doesn't go entirely to plan, and buy the company's assets for £1.

      *cough* NTL *cough*

      *cough* Telewest *cough*

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Meanwhile Virgin Media's response...

        Historically you're right, but I doubt that, as VM would now do that as they've just spent vast sums upgrading their own fibre and coax networks to DOCSIS 3.1 standard, so that (if and when they believe it profitable) they can deliver residential gigabit connections simply by providing a new cable modem.

        Your prediction about City Fibre is well evidence, but I think it very unlikely the current City Fibre investors plan to wait around and try and make a cash return through operating the network. They're probably hoping that Vodafone will look at the option of merging with Vermin Media, decide they don't like the terms, and instead buyout some combination of the partly built out City Fibre, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic to form a third fixed line gigabit competitor.

  4. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Makes sense, if you want to invest in infrastructure then fttp is great as it doesn't need maintenance or upgrade for a very long time. You can send 1Pbps (1000000000mbps) down a single fiber cable, so you can rent the network to ISPs and if the ISPs want to deliver faster speed they are the ones who pay for better modems for their customers.

    1. localzuk

      Does that not depend on the type and quality of fibre? You'd be hard pressed to get 1Pbps down an OS1 cable, for example. And I doubt they'll be installing fibre capable of 1Pbps to Aunt Jane's cottage.

  5. Dazed and Confused

    Roll on some competion

    The more people wanting to get into the FTTP market the sooner people are likely to get it and the more more homes are likely to be offered the service. Left to themselves OpenRetch (or any company) will just cherry pick and invest the minimum they need to to make a profit rather than take any risks.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Roll on some competion

      I think you're correct (sadly)

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Roll on some competion

      "Left to themselves OpenRetch (or any company) will just cherry pick and invest the minimum they need to to make a profit rather than take any risks."

      OpenReach seam to be doing an ok job now that they are run separately from BT, they are moving their focus to FTTP and they are shutting down the old copper telephone network (and replacing it with SIP) which is long overdue.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Roll on some competion

      Competition? Who are you kidding?

      Virginmedia (plus the gigabit new entrants) provide "competition", but not in the sense of classical competitive pressure to reduce prices and improve services. Instead they use Openreach as a benchmark to justify their own higher pricing, and the mercilessly lobby government to block any (worthwhile) USO on Openreach, and limit additional ultrafast broadband funding, even in areas they themselves won't touch.

      I'm with VM, and all I see is shit customer service, total absence of customer focus, endlessly rising bills, along with maximum speeds defined only by the idea of "10% faster than BT's fastest widespread offer".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Roll on some competion

      Other way around. Openreach will end up connecting the masses, it'll be the fly by nighters who do the extreme cherry picking.

      Just like the cable companies in the 90s.

      Unless the government is going to throw billions at the proposed Internet USO, you won't see the smaller outfits lining up to dig up smaller urban areas and of course rural Britain.

      1. localzuk

        Re: Roll on some competion

        OpenReach will only end up connecting the masses by being heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.

        Without that subsidy, they most definitely are just as pick and choosey as the rest.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Roll on some competion

          " OpenReach will only end up connecting the masses by being heavily subsidised by the taxpayer."

          Not necessarily. Openreach spends a lot of money maintaining copper (and that FTTC network is expensive too - lots of kit to power). FTTP is demonstrably cheaper to operate, has less issues to worry about, and guarantees universal service. They also have the advantage that the fibre laid for FTTC can be repurposed for an FTTH rollout.

          It's also a necessity to make 5G live up to the hype - small cells closer to homes - so there's the prospect of getting the mobile operators to pay for lots of new backhaul links.

          That's why they're going in that direction. I can tell you that in my area, not at all desirable for cherry picking purposes, and with no other form of last mile "competition", Openreach have been spending cash putting in G.fast and FTTH. Neither of these are part of a state subsidised rollout - everyone can already get 30+Mbps FTTC, and none of our postcode areas appear on the list for state funded expansion.

          Gigaclear are having issues of their own, Cityfibre operate as a "fibre to the press release" company. If there's USO cash to go around, perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to give it to Openreach...

      2. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: Roll on some competion

        BT Broadband is not necessarily committed to using OpenReach if CityFibre can provide a better price in a given area - now that would be competition.

  6. Big-G

    Not the 'rural' part of Milton Keynes , apparently

    Having splurged a few pence on some targeted social media ads, this early adopter in Milton Keynes responded, but was told no, not available to my address at home or work. Both are in the Unitary borough of Milton Keynes, one a village the other a town , 8 and 10 mile north to be precise. Not that I'm in the least bit surpised

    1. A K Stiles

      Re: Not the 'rural' part of Milton Keynes , apparently

      Within the grid of MK and the cityfibre / vodaphone sites say 'No Chance'...

      Mostly curious as I currently have a FTTP connection with BT/OR...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already got it

    Thanks we already have fttp in Hull, that said the whole KCOM network had a lie down, taking out broadband, phone lines, their data centre in Hull for between 3.5 and 7 hours morning although the reg didn't publicise it.

    As I remember cityfibre bought KCOM's national network so I guess they are getting some things right.

  8. GlenP Silver badge

    Will Soon Have It...

    If I decide the increased cost and risk* is worthwhile. GigaClear have just been digging up the street to install the FTTP cabling, funded mainly by you and me (via Westminster and Europe).

    I am in a rural area (fields immediately behind the house, etc.) but we already have FTTC which, being reasonably close to the box, runs at around 78 Meg (if I plug the fast laptop directly into the router). Is it worth another £15 a month (by the time I've subscribed to a VOIP provider as well, c**p mobile coverage) to up that to 300?

    *By risk I mean that with only the one provider if they fail, which has happened, I'll be left with either hoping someone else takes over the infrastructure or reverting to the FTTC connection which will take time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will Soon Have It...

      Not a huge risk - the meaning of fail here is that Gigaclear folds really quickly, leaving no time for administration processes (which would keep the service running hoping to sell the network plus customers to another ISP). This isn't hugely likely, and even if it did happen you could pop to a mobile phone store and get a 4G broadband adapter on pay as you go to tide you over until FTTC could be brought back online.

      FWIW, my sister's village has had Gigaclear for a while now - and it's been very good for her.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Will Soon Have It...

        At my parents house out in the rural Cotswolds getting a mobile signal indoors (even 2G) on any network is very unlikely. I'm sure they'll improve things when they get all this lovely spectrum though. However their village has been fibred up with FTTP available for everyone. I won't name the company but they must have spent a bit doing that. There may of course have been some subsidy or other to soften the blow. A sales rep came to the door and spoke to my mum before Easter about the service. I was there but as it's not my house I decided I wasn't going to speak to her. The rep checked to see if they'd noticed the (vast) amount of work that had been going on to make this possible. They certainly had as it had been going on for a while and required digging up the road in one or two places as well as just the verge.

        The next questions were about whether they noticed many problems with their existing broadband. The rep wanted to know:

        Sales rep: Do you have problems with the speeds on your current copper based broadband?

        Mum: I don't think so everything loads quite quickly

        Sales rep: Do you suffer much from buffering?

        Mum: is that the same as buffeting because if so only when it's windy

        Sales rep: Er no it isn't

        Mum: Oh then I don't think so as I don't know what it means.

        Sales rep: Do you get pauses when watching tv online or videos on demand

        Mum: No we watch TV on the Television that's what it's for and not the computer. We can pause the videos of our grandchildren on Whatsapp though.

        Sales rep: Do you do much on-line gaming?

        (this is to someone who is north of 70 so whilst not impossible, fairly unlikely she's up with a headset on gamepad/mouse in hand till all hours)

        Mum: Well I play Sudoku and Solitaire on my phone

        Sales rep: Well You might be interested in our fibre broadband packages which start from as little as £40 and can give you speeds of 50Mbps

        Mum: Is that good?

        Sales rep: It's very competitive at that price and we can go up to 1Gbps for a bit more

        Mum: Do I need that to online shop?

        Sales rep: You can also get your phoneline and number ported over to our VOIP partner

        Mum: What's VOIP is that anything to do with a mobile signal because we don't get a very good signal here.

        Sales rep: No it's through your broadband connection and is only around £8 a month.

        Mum: Will the burglar alarm work on that too especially when the power has gone out.

        Sales rep: Erm I don't think so

        Mum: Oh well then we'd need to keep the BT line too.

        Sales rep: Maybe I can just leave you with some literature and my card and if you'd like to go ahead let me know.

        Mum: That's fine,

        Sales rep: Bye... (almost running up the drive to escape the luddite OAP)

        Afterwards we looked at the costs of this service which came in as follows:

        All the installation and one off fees came to £420. Higher cost because the house is more than 10m from the connection point and it will require a lot of internal cabling etc.

        The cost of the service would be £615 over the life of the contract with another £100 if they took the VOIP.

        So that's £1135 plus the cost of the burglar alarm land line. They both looked at it carefully for a few seconds before deciding they'd rather spend the money on something else.

  9. WibbleMe

    Its all Bull S Advetising

    So, its fibre broadband you have hu, tell me how fibre to the big green box down the street feels, you still have copper from the box to your free cheap hub/rooter.

    When will one of these companies do fibre to the DOOR as standard?

    1. King Jack

      Re: Its all Bull S Advetising

      This is about fibre to the door/premises. They dug up the street to place the fibre outside every house. Learn to read.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Its all Bull S Advetising

        This is about fibre to the door/premises. They dug up the street to place the fibre outside every house.

        Exactly what they did at my parents house, wired up the entire village. Sadly as I explained in another post this was pointless in their case.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When will one of these companies do fibre to the DOOR as standard?

      Fibre to the door was the original H2O Networks marketing spiel (Bournemouth, Dundee, etc).

      It was clearly never going to be economically feasible as advertised (cost per connect in a residential area made no sense) and in due course the business collapsed. And was resurrected, with some different names on the Board.

  10. Commswonk Silver badge

    Minor Edit Required...

    From the article: Goldman Sachs are very experienced infrastructure investors. What they are looking at is the potential, longer-term value. Therefore they have concluded that represents the right value based on its future.” ®

    The middle sentence might be better written as What they are looking for is a fat profit. The company was not called a vampire squid for no reason...

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Minor Edit Required...

      That's exactly what they said:

      "What they are looking at is the potential, longer-term value. "

      They want the investment to be good value for them.

  11. CJatCTi
    Happy

    We alread have 1Gb fibre to "The Old Farmhouse" for under £80 per month

    GigaClear is already delivering to Cotswold villages and any back water in the area.

    I look out of my office window and watch the piggies in the farmers back garden.

    If others play their cards right BT won't have a busness in 10 years time.

    They are moving everyone to VoIP with out a cost effective offering & now the lines / Internet conectivity will be from others.

    Possibly BT sport is all that will be left.

    Once can but hope

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We alread have 1Gb fibre to "The Old Farmhouse" for under £80 per month

      Openreach already has a larger FTTP footprint than any other UK operator.

      They, along with Virgin, also own a ton of existing ducts and poles, so their FTTP will cost less and take less time to roll out (once they take it seriously)

      If someone's out of business in 10 years, it won't be Openreach. You're more likely to find that these new entrants will have consolidated, got bought up, or folded.

      Even in a hypothetical situation where BT finally gives up openreach, they'll still have a huge wholesale operation and of course they own three well known ISPs.

  12. nil0

    My experience of Openreach's FTTP rollout

    November 2017, an Openreach van and cherry picker turned up, bloke went up to the top of half-a-dozen poles along the lane and nailed in little boxes each with a coil of fibre dangling loose underneath it.

    And...

    ...that's the end of the story.

  13. pentlands

    More pie in the sky.

    I sat and watched Cityfibre dig and lay their cable not 10 yards away from my building about 2 years ago, shortly after i got a flyer through my door from "Hyperoptic" advising i could access the a 1GB network if i registered on the Hyperoptic website... back then i think it was 8 registrations per Post Code before they'd connect the premises, now it's 11 per "PCH"?

    As for Vodaphone who are supposed to have some sort of contract with Cityfibre, not a word.

    Reminds me of the dial-up days when the cable co's held back until BT launched fibre... surely the worst decision ever... the cable co's had the opportunity to sow up the fibre market, but they waited, and...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] with a further four towns and cities set to have their streets dug up for new fibre “before the end of the year”.

    Oh no! The council have only just resurfaced part of our pavement from the last fibre company's excavations - at least a decade ago.

  15. David Roberts Silver badge

    Just me?

    Or are they trying to cable up the areas which already have VM?

    The City part of the name may be a clue of course. I'm struggling to see how they can make back the installation costs in less dense population areas.

  16. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Loads of people have fibre though

    There are posters on the street cabinets saying fibre is here, and BT, Sky and talk talk are advertising fibre broadband. I don’t see what the fuss is about

    Facetious mode off.

  17. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Great!

    In the mean time myself along with parts of Sydney are still waiting on the NBN rollout. At the moment my home connection is based on adsl connection on 70 year old copper over a Km away from the exchange. Throw in rain and my download speed can be easily beaten by smoke signals

  18. Robert D Bank

    so, roadworks until 2025...

  19. LastGasp

    Glasgow

    They've been digging up all the streets around this particular rural village for weeks/months now.

  20. Pete4000uk

    Rural fibre springs

    Back in the spring i took a morning walk with my mother along a single track road out of Stroud to a little place called The Vatch which is halfway to Slad. I noticed the high verges had been disturbed all along the route until just before The Vatch where a pink tube came out of the earth. These tubes would appear every so often down through the tiny hamlet, made up of early and mid Victorian houses, some of which must be heading into seven figures.

    Just the other side, down a damp tree covered part of the lane was a hole in the ground with easily a hundred plus tubes springing out. I thought to myself I must remember to mention this to the other commontards the next time some story pops up here about broadband out in the sticks.

    I've heard of the darling buds of may, but the springing fibre cables of April?

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