Cityfibre is rolling out a £50 million 1Gbit/s fibre network across Newcastle, supported by Vodafone. It is aiming for 85%+ coverage of the city, which is expected to take up to 4 years to deliver.
Cityfibre is investing £2.5 billion on its FTTH programme, which will cover 40 towns and cities and 5 million premises by 2025. These towns and cities are all where Cityfibre already has, or is acquiring, Dark Fibre. Newcastle is on Cityfibre’s Phase 2 list of towns and cities (see below).
Just over half of Newcastle is already covered by Virgin Media’s ‘ultrafast broadband’ network, which the firm is upgrading from 500Mbit/s to 1Gbit/s (by 2021). Virgin is currently also extending its network in the city.
Earlier this year, political leaders from cities and towns across Northern England, along with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, wrote an open letter to UK regulator Ofcom, calling for more co-ordination in the delivery of FTTP. The letter said they want every home and business in the top 30 northern towns and cities to be fully fibred by 2025. However, they also warn of the perils of overbuilding, with Northern Powerhouse director Henri Murison (amongst others) pointing out that uncoordinated investment risks network duplication in some areas and no network in others.
Overbuilding is not just bad for those areas that lose out, but also for the industry. Where overbuilding occurs, it becomes far harder to deliver a return on investment that repays the cost of network build out. To deliver more co-ordination would require the government, and Ofcom, to intervene but both has a policy of network-level competition, which inevitably results in overbuilding in some areas. The only remedy is to mandate service level competition on equal terms.
Cityfibre Phase 1 build out
Cost: £500 million
Covers: 1 million premises
Completion date: 2021
Cityfibre Phase 2 build out
Covers: 17 locations/1 million premises
Cityfibre planned (but currently unscheduled) build out