Earlier this April, TalkTalk and Sky revealed their plan to form a coalition with CityFibre to build an ultra-fast broadband network in the city of York.
The aim is to utilise CityFibre’s existing metro fibre infrastructure to deliver fibre-to-the-premises to tens of thousands of homes and business across York. Whilst ultra-fast broadband can be provided in certain areas of the UK, with speeds of up to 1 Gb/s on such a city-wide scale, this considerably overshadows offerings from both BT and Virgin Media. It also poses the biggest threat yet to BT’s overarching dominance within the UK’s fixed line telecoms infrastructure.
It is certainly an ambitious move from TalkTalk and Sky, who have always been solely reliant upon BT’s copper network to provide connectivity to their end users. The project offers the opportunity to test whether building an entire network independently from BT is feasible, and will provide huge benefits to the residents of York who will eventually be able to make their own decision between which service provider to choose from, creating further competition to the incumbent BT.
The first stage of the project will be to provide FTTP to 20,000 premises in the area, which accounts for about 10% of York’s population. Sky and TalkTalk will then retail the wholesale fibre services as competing broadband packages, which are expected to be fully live and connected by 2015. Currently, official launch dates and pricing are still yet to be finalised.
The project shows that clearly there is a high demand to improve connectivity and deliver FTTP rather than FTTC, which ultimately still relies on last mile (BT owned) copper infrastructure. This demand can be demonstrated through plans to bring ultra-fast fibre networks to two more cities in the UK. A competition is likely to be the means of selection, with any areas that show significant interest being most likely to be chosen.