Monday, 14 June 2021

How fibre networks will change London's fortunes

Chris Sedgwick
Thursday 13 May 21

Ahead of his panel at Connected Britain 2021 we caught up with Sasho Veselinski, CEO at G.Network, to talk about their ambitious plans for FTTP deployment in London, how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed perceptions of broadband as a utility, and the benefits next generation digital infrastructure

G.Network have ambitious plans to build a full fibre network to over 1 million UK premises, can you tell us a bit more about the project and its progress. Over the next five years G.Network will dig around 4,000km of London streets to install brand-new full fibre to 1.4 million premises. The project will cover 13 London boroughs, and in each borough we’ll install a contiguous network reaching over 80% of the borough. In December we secured a £1bn fundraise for the project.   Once made live, we offer the service to customers. We are building the network on an ‘Open Access’ principle, so that other providers can offer connections to their customers using G…

G.Network have ambitious plans to build a full fibre network to over 1 million UK premises, can you tell us a bit more about the project and its progress.

Over the next five years G.Network will dig around 4,000km of London streets to install brand-new full fibre to 1.4 million premises. The project will cover 13 London boroughs, and in each borough we’ll install a contiguous network reaching over 80% of the borough. In December we secured a £1bn fundraise for the project.
 
Once made live, we offer the service to customers. We are building the network on an ‘Open Access’ principle, so that other providers can offer connections to their customers using G.Network infrastructure in future. 
 
The rollout will create more than 1,250 new jobs for Londoners and bring competitively-priced broadband to businesses and residents.
 
So far we have presence in nine boroughs and we have passed more than 200,000 premises. Local councils recognise the importance of improving connectivity and are very supportive.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed perceptions of the importance of telecoms networks, how do think this new dynamic will impact the industry going forward?
 
The pandemic has underscored the importance of a reliable, high speed broadband connection, and it appears to have permanently changed the way we work and live. 
 
In the post-Covid world, many Londoners will continue to do their work from home for part of the week. This means that the quality of residential broadband connections will remain critically important, and we expect to see strong demand for full fibre from residents as well as businesses.
 
That in turn may affect the dynamics of the industry. Residents whose connections could not keep pace during lockdown may be more open to looking around the market for a full-fibre alternative. And then they will realise that they don’t have to stick with the incumbents, and other companies can be more responsive to their needs.
 
I believe the pandemic has also shone a light on the way broadband is advertised. When people do shop around, many of them look for ‘fibre broadband’. But they can be led into buying a  ‘superfast fibre’ or ‘ultrafast fibre’ connection which can’t deliver for them because it’s actually copper-based. Some customers we spoke to were surprised to learn that it’s OK to advertise copper-based connections with this terminology. There is a need for new standards in this area. 
 
Finally, there is the question of data. The amount of data we are using is exploding, and I believe this is a trend that will only accelerate. As ever more devices connect to the internet and their processing power constantly increases, there will be a need for full fibre connectivity as the only way to cope with such massive data growth.
 
What are the major challenges you face in your network build?
 
Digging up nearly all of central London, delivering thousands of connections every month and providing a broadband service comes with dozens of challenges. They will be familiar across the industry: ensuring the company is as productive as possible, keeping costs under control, gaining access to properties, keeping local disruption to a minimum. 
 
Finding the best talent for our project is also a challenge. We recently launched the ‘G.Network Fibre Academy’ where we are going to train hundreds of people from scratch to become qualified fibre engineers.
 
On the commercial side, we are also constantly thinking about delivering value for customers. Our entry-level 150Mbps product is priced from £22 per month. We can demonstrate that better connectivity doesn’t have to cost a fortune. 
 
The Government has set the ambitious target of ensuring at least 85% of the country has gigabit connectivity coverage by 2025 – do you think this is achievable based on our current trajectory?
 
From a London perspective we are confident we can deliver on the timescales we have set out. The government and Ofcom have successfully created the conditions for companies like G.Network to invest and thrive. The government is aware that the sector needs is policy stability, and that is what we have. It is now down to us to deliver on our promises.
 
What are the big opportunities that next generation digital infrastructure will bring for UK plc?
 
Full fibre will dramatically improve the competitiveness and wellbeing of London’s residents and businesses. It will boost the economy by accelerating the rate at which businesses can work and reducing the need for people to travel. In turn this could create more jobs in new fields in the longer term. 
 
More broadly, full fibre will fundamentally change the way business is done. We have all learned in the last year that great connectivity brings flexibility. With the right flexibility, we will all be able to rethink how, when and where we work. But the critical enabler of this is a dense citywide full fibre network, and that is what the G.Network project unlocks for London.
 
To hear more from Sasho and the G.Network team please join us at Connected Britain 2021 on 21st and 22nd September at the Business Design Centre, London. The event is free to attend for consumer facing UK-based telecom operators and public sector attendees. You can find out more here.

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