BBWN Bites: Openreach Seeks New FTTH Supplier
UK action from Openreach, CityFibre and Virgin Media leads this roundup of fixed broadband sector news.
Openreach, the semi-autonomous fixed access infrastructure division of UK incumbent telco BT, is seeking a third FTTH infrastructure supplier. Huawei and Nokia are already Openreach vendors, but the British wholesale access operator has decided to triple-source its fixed access gear as it ramps up its FTTH rollout activities with the aim of making fiber-to-the-premises available to 4 million homes and businesses by March 2021. Officially, Openreach is being coy about its plans: "We already manage a large and diverse supply chain across our full fibre build, and we're constantly reviewing our options," it noted in an emailed response to questions. But Openreach is known to have drawn up a tender document that will be made available to prospective suppliers later this week, with responses expected by January next year and a new supplier of local exchange, network and customer premises equipment (CPE) identified during the first half of 2020. Which companies will be drooling at the prospect? ADTRAN will fancy its chances, having previously engaged in fixed broadband trials with Openreach, while (in alphabetical order) Altice Labs, Calix, Dasan Zhone Solutions, Fiberhome, Iskratel and ZTE can also be expected to consider responding. Why is Openreach doing this? It wasn't immediately open (geddit?) to sharing its thoughts, but this looks like a way to provide additional access gear options should the operator decide it wants to pull back on using Huawei gear, while also heaping even further pricing pressure on its existing suppliers.
Still in the UK, alternative fiber access wholesale operator CityFibre is reportedly seeking to revise its wholesale agreement with Vodafone in order to expand its revenue options, according to UK newspaper The Telegraph (subscription required). Vodafone is CityFibre's anchor tenant for its wholesale fiber network, currently holding some level of exclusive right to offer retail broadband services using CityFibre's infrastructure until the first phase of rollout (covering 1 million premises) is complete. CityFibre is believed to be offering Vodafone improved terms if it agrees to revise that deal and allow other retail ISPs to get on board in the early rollout phase, a move that would help CityFibre's near-term business potential: The operator, though, says it cannot comment on any market speculation. Vodafone, it's worth noting, recently struck a deal with Openreach to use the BT unit's fiber plant to offer high-speed broadband services in the UK cities of Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool starting next year.
Cable operator Virgin Media is claiming to offer the UK's fastest gigabit home broadband, in and around the town of Reading, about 40 miles west of London. Nearly a quarter of a million homes across the English counties of Berkshire, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire will be able to access the "Gig1" service, which starts at £62 (US$80) a month for an 18-month contract and offers an average peak-time download speed of 1,104 Mbit/s, boasts the cable operator. The launch forms part of Virgin's efforts to bring gigabit connectivity to nearly 15 million UK homes by the end of 2021.
Italian FTTx wholesale operator Open Fiber is in the news this week. Part owner Enel says it is not in a rush to offload its stake, reports Reuters, as speculation swirls about a potential integration with TIM (Telecom Italia)'s access business. Separately, Open Fiber has opened a FTTH test lab it is calling Open Factory: The press release (in Italian) announcing the launch is an extraordinary work of art, as it references Andy Warhol and his New York entourage… the broadband world needs more press releases like this.
Openreach wants to shift up a FTTH gear with a new equipment supplier.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading for Broadband World News.
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