Britain’s broadband infrastructure is about to move into the ultrafast lane. The current network is struggling to support the surge in online streaming and the growing Internet of Things (IoT), and the Government has pledged to deliver fast fibre broadband to a third of premises by 2025. Its £5bn Project Gigabit is designed to bring fibre broadband to over a million hard-to-reach businesses and homes.
Project Gigabit will enable alternative networks (AltNets) to win a share of the UK’s broadband market from mainstream providers like Virgin and BT. It’s a golden opportunity, especially as the UK is already set to enjoy one of the quickest ultra-fast broadband rollouts in Europe. As the competition heats up, AltNets must act fast to level the playing field and create a future-proof digital infrastructure for the UK.
AltNets’ direct competition with the two incumbent giants means they’ll face challenges in terms of price erosion, market consolidation and limited access to skilled labour and land rights–as well as a low profile among consumers, many of whom have never heard of them. Yet AltNets are growing exponentially, especially in broadband-hungry rural communities.
The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA), predicts that AltNets will invest about £12bn in full-fibre connectivity by 2025. The most successful players will identify locations of interest first, then work out the cost of bringing their broadband services to these locations–a contrast to the major players’ approach of building the networks and hoping customers will come. It’s likely to deliver a good ROI if they keep costs down and choose their suppliers with care.
AltNets can genuinely challenge the giants, delivering ultrafast, copper-free full-fibre solutions. They’re opening the door to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband, empowering British businesses to take advantage of new operational efficiencies, upgrade their infrastructures, and adopt the latest innovations in 5G, edge computing, AI and IoT. It could revolutionise the way people and organisations interact, as well as blurring the lines between city and country–which could be just what we need in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic Britain.