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Gigabit vs Megabit: Fibre providers lure ex-BT staff for broadband battle plans

Rural fibre ISP Gigaclear and the Peterborough-based Gigabit City project have signed up ex-BT staff to help spearhead their next-gen broadband battle plans. 

Steve Robertson, former Openreach CEO and current CEO of VoIP provider Truphone, has joined Gigaclear as part of an advisory group. 

Robertson will provide advice and help Gigaclear develop its business model as it continues to connect more rural communities and businesses to gigabit FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband. 

Gigabit vs Megabit: Fibre providers lure ex-BT staff for broadband battle plans
Gigging around: Gigabit fibre broadband providers take on former BT staff to provide direction

Robertson said: “The company’s ultrafast fibre to the premises broadband is giving rural communities a reliable, predictable and future proofed communications solution.  

“The Gigaclear model allows entire rural communities including homes, home-workers, businesses and business parks to take control of their own broadband destiny instead of having to wait for solutions that may never materialise.” 

Gigaclear will set up a rural fibre broadband network if there’s enough local interestGigaclear specialises in setting up fibre networks in rural areas where there’s sufficient interest from local families and companies. Provided big commercial providers like BT and Virgin Media aren’t planning to deploy in an area and Gigaclear can connect to a fibre backbone, if enough people want it Gigaclear will build it. 

The advisory group also includes Richard Feasey, former Telewest (now Virgin Media) policy director and Eddie Minshull, ex-CEO of MLL Telecom. Robertson adds: 

“Our role as advisors isn’t just to support Gigaclear as it develops as a company, it’s about helping to develop and improve their business model further so that more communities can benefit from high broadband speeds.” 

Gigaclear will need to tread carefully and target areas which aren’t being earmarked for government funded projects. Recently, the company had to pull the plug on a Wiltshire-based project after it emerged areas were to be included in a BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) funded programme. 

Away from the sticks, the Gigabit City project in Peterborough has announced that it’s hired Sally Davis, ex-CEO of BT Wholesale. David will be joining CityFibre as a non-executive director, offering guidance as Gigabit City starts connecting Peterborough businesses. 

Davis said: “CityFibre is one of a very few businesses committed to providing pure fibre connectivity as opposed to fibre-to-the-cabinet technology relying on the old copper-based network. I am delighted to be involved with a company with a vision to bring the huge benefits of ultra-fast connectivity to UK cities.”

While former BT figures are throwing their lot in with the pure fibre providers, BT is instead electing to install FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) in the majority of places covered by its own £2.5 billion commercial programme and various BDUK projects. 

BT’s FTTC line currently only provide top speeds of 80Mbps compared to the gigabit headline speeds of Gigaclear and CityFibre. A gigabit is equivalent to 1,000 megabits, making Gigaclear and CityFibre’s top speeds roughly twelve times faster. 

Additionally, the nature of FTTC means that speeds decrease the further away your property is from a connected street cabinet. 

So why is BT rolling out slower, less robust connections? First of all, it’s questionable whether or not customers need that kind of bandwidth in the near future. 

BSG: ’19Mbps is all most families need’The BSG (Broadband Stakeholder Group), which advises the UK government on broadband rollout, stated that 19Mbps would be the minimum download speed most homes would need by 2023. Setting up FTTP is also expensive and BT can save money by upgrading its existing telephone network. 

Analysts PointTopic argue that cost is as great a barrier to superfast adoption as availability. The latest figures from Ofcom show that while 73 per cent of the UK can get superfast broadband, only a fraction of those who can get it are paying for it right now. 

Gigaclear’s services, while impressive, aren’t cheap. The entry level package from Gigaclear costs £37/month plus a £100 connection fee for guaranteed download and upload speeds of 50Mbps. It’s a premium product and as such, it commands a premium price. 

The entry-level FTTC package from TalkTalk, is almost a tenner cheaper each month than the Gigaclear service (£27.90/month including line rental). While it’s still nearly £30/month, those who want faster broadband might choose to go for the cheaper option even if the technology is inferior. 

TalkTalk’s recent figures show that demand for superfast is higher in areas where it will result in a transformative experience, so whether it’s up to 38Mbps or guaranteed 50Mbps might not matter if you’re upgrading from single digit speeds. 

Image: Jared Tarbell/Flickr 

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