Daren Baythorpe, CEO of wholesale full fiber provider, ITS Technology Group discusses how the progress and delivery of ‘Gigabit Britain’ is being accelerated with joined-up thinking across the public and private sectors
The road to ‘Gigabit Britain’ continues to gain momentum. In the past twelve months, 70 per cent[i] in the UK now has the option of gigabit broadband technology, while true full fiber access has grown from 25% to around 40%.
This has been achieved thanks to an extraordinary push from infrastructure providers such as ITS. During this period, the altnet community has also continued to grow significantly, with a combined financial firepower behind it that now compares to the scale of many of BT and Virgin’s investments.
While the delivery capabilities of these organizations are critical to getting fiber in the ground, collaboration is a key enabler, greater than the sum of its parts, that will ensure we meet the government’s ambitious target of universal access to gigabit-capable services by 2030.
This is why ITS launched its Faster Britain program in 2020, as a means of engaging with our stakeholders, including our partner ISPs and retailers. A brand they can get behind and help them go to market and sell connectivity solutions to businesses as we continue to accelerate our fiber rollout to major cities across the UK.
Make the most of recycling
As a company, we have long recognized the benefits of reuse and ‘dig once’ network building methods, which offer a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to full fiber delivery.
As well as being Openreach Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) accredited, ITS works closely with local authorities to maximize their existing assets, building on the success achieved in Nottingham. Having signed the first deal of its kind with the city council – a concession to reuse the city center and tram channels – we have done many similar deals since.
With increased integrated thinking, projects designed to utilize existing infrastructure are delivered more efficiently with less disruption to the communities they are designed to serve.
The next level of collaboration
One of our most notable public-private projects currently underway is LCR Connect, a £30m 212 km of rich full fiber backbone that will reach 29,000 businesses across the six local authorities in the Liverpool City Region – Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St. Helens and Wirral.
With more than 30% already built, LCR Connect brings to life a key manifesto promise from Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, designed to drive economic growth and better equip businesses in the Liverpool City Region. It is a joint venture that takes public-private collaboration to the next level, being 50% owned by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA), in partnership with ITS, working with our construction partner NGE, managing the build and rollout of the network.
At the heart of LCR Connect’s delivery strategy is the collaboration between the JV and each of the six local authorities that make up the Liverpool City Region. This approach not only leverages the capabilities of full fiber, it also helps overcome many of the challenges and barriers inherent in building full fiber networks; from road sheets to highways.
Smart collaboration makes it easier to build smarter
To summarize, we cannot underestimate the complexity associated with infrastructure construction. These challenges are simplified when there is greater stakeholder collaboration. While the public sector is forward thinking in its thinking to create better, smarter environments for its communities, there is still some way to go before there is true collaboration between the wider ecosystem such as landowners, developers and housing associations. As these mindsets shift, the rewards will be great and will further smooth and accelerate the path to a true Gigabit Britain.
[i] Source: ThinkBroadband