What is the Full Fibre Roll Out?

The term “Full Fibre rollout” is widely used in the UK to refer to the efforts of various fibre providers upgrading from the older, slower copper networks to cutting-edge fibre optics.

Supported by the UK government and initiatives like Project Gigabit, the goal is to expand Full Fibre coverage to 85% of the country by 2025, a target that seems achievable given current progress.

Currently, 60% of the UK already benefits from access to Full Fibre broadband.

Today, over 100 networks are laying fibre across the UK, a significant increase from the days when only two network providers, Openreach and Virgin, owned infrastructure. Since the launch of Project Gigabit and the availability of external funding, numerous new networks have emerged since 2018.

Now, with so many networks, it’s inevitable the closer we get to a full fibre Britain, the more consolidation we’re going to see. As many new networks have laid fibre successfully, they are finding it challenging to connect customers.

These networks, or “altnets” (alternative networks to Openreach and Virgin), typically follow one of two business models to connect customers:

  1. Open Access Network: In this model, network providers allow ISPs to use their infrastructure to connect customers. For example, CityFibre operates as an Open Access Network, relying on ISPs to connect end users and paying a fee per connection for using their infrastructure.
  2. Closed Access Networks: Here, the network lays the fibre and also connects customers, either under the same brand or a different brand they own. For instance, Netnomia passes near 1 million homes and uses its ISP, YouFibre, to sell services. Similarly, Airband both lays the fibre and connects customers under its brand.

Each model has its advantages and drawbacks.

A current challenge in the UK is the tendency of networks to switch to “open access” after failing to meet penetration targets—key performance indicators related to the number of connected customers post-fibre installation. However, many lack the technology or infrastructure necessary to onboard and manage ISPs effectively.

We’ve got a separate video coming on that.

Jonny Rae

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