UK altnets back common wholesale platform

Created September 21, 2020
News and Business

Nearly nine out of ten (88.7%) of the UK’s challenger broadband network providers support the creation of a common platform through which they could provide wholesale services to third-party content providers, according to a new survey. The creation of a common wholesale platform is an important step forward in enabling independent operators to attract service providers to their networks by aggregating the large volume of customers they could potentially reach. By cross referencing against the Spring INCA / Point Topic survey, it has been estimated that there will be 11 million premises accessed via independent networks by 2025.

The number of premises provided with full-fibre coverage is increasing rapidly with independent networks increasing their deployment by 50% last year to 1.2 million. However, with just over 10% of all UK premises covered with full fibre there is a long way to go, although Virgin Media’s cable network makes a significant contribution to the Government’s 2025 target of “gigabit-capable broadband” to all homes.

“For some time, it has been presumed that challenger independent providers do not have the scale to attract major brands like TalkTalk and Sky. However, that is changing rapidly and our research shows that the operators are keen to work together on a wholesale platform that can bridge the gap in the market,” said INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett.

Henry West, Commercial Director, Truespeed, which provides full fibre broadband in the South West of England says, “Smaller independent providers, like Truespeed, are already working full pelt to roll out full fibre infrastructure to rural and hard to reach areas of the UK, and the creation of a common wholesale platform would be a welcome reinforcement to those efforts. A dual strategy approach, employing both wholesale and direct sales to consumers, would enable infrastructure providers to cover more ground more quickly and, crucially, give consumers more choice. Whether through supplying customers directly or by leasing our infrastructure to other suppliers, our priority is ensuring consumers have access to the best value full fibre service for their needs.”

INCA is supporting the development of a ‘Common Wholesale Platform’, which would enable groups of independent wholesale network providers to combine together and offer a real competitive alternative to the limited number of large players which currently dominate the market. The aim is to make it as simple as possible for service providers to deliver their services over challenger networks, thus helping to foster credible competition and consumer choice in the delivery of the UK’s new digital infrastructure.

INCA’s survey also revealed that only 43% of the independent broadband sector is aware of the date when changes come into force governing how consumers switch between broadband providers. Ofcom are expected to lay out the timetable in September for a new ‘Gaining Provider Led’ switching process that will simplify the way that consumers can switch services. INCA is providing information and support to member operators to help them prepare for the changes that will take place in 2021.

INCA’s survey was carried out in summer 2020 as a response to a call from Ofcom to have greater visibility of the industry’s view on establishing a Common Wholesale Platform. The results show a significant interest in and support for the concept. A total of 62 responses were received from independent network operators, suppliers and consultancy firms. These results have been cross-referenced against the Spring INCA / Point Topic survey.

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.