Vodafone and CityFibre to batter BT with gigabit FTTP network

Vodafone has mounted an attack on the United Kingdom broadband market by backing plans to connect up to five million homes with new ultrafast fibre-optic lines, increasing pressure on BT to invest in upgrades and putting itself in more direct competition with Virgin Media.

Vodafone said the deal would give it access to a superior product at a lower cost and under better conditions than the regulated wholesale terms offered by the current operator, BT's Openreach, which it said had left Britain trailing major rivals.

"As we've said consistently - investing in more fibre-to-the-premises technology across the United Kingdom will need commitment from the whole industry", said a spokesman.

Construction work will start next year to deliver FTTP to one million homes and businesses by 2021, after which there is an arrangement to expand to four million more.

The company owns core fibre-optic infrastructure in cities including Sheffield, Edinburgh and Bristol and has been seeking telecoms retail partners to secure funding to build links into homes.

Vodafone had said in September it was looking at laying its own ultrafast full-fibre broadband connections if it could find partners to share the costs.

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Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said the move would push Vodafone to the front of the broadband pack. This strategy has positioned Vodafone as the fastest growing broadband provider in Europe, marketing high-speed broadband services to 99 million European homes – a footprint that will be expanded further under this agreement.

CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch added: "This agreement will unlock the UK's full fibre future and is a major step forward in delivering our vision for a Gigabit Britain". And according to Jeffery they are undoubtedly superior to the old networks that rely on old copper telephone lines. "With this commitment from Vodafone, we have a partner with whom we can transform the digital capabilities of millions of homes and businesses and establish an unassailable wholesale infrastructure position across 20% of the United Kingdom".

Vodafone's announcement comes after CityFibre in July revealed plans to construct a new 1Gbps FTTP broadband network for five to 10 United Kingdom towns and cities.

A spokesman for BT Openreach said its own plan to upgrade 2 million premises was "well under way" and the company aims to reach 10 million homes and businesses with FTTP by the mid-2020s.

Neither party has yet announced what areas will gain the ultrafast fibre first, but more information is expected in the coming months. In the longer term it wants to achieve 10 million connected premises.

In the initial phase, costing £500mln, one million homes in twelve cities now supplied by CityFibre will be upgraded. As of 30 June 2017, Vodafone Group had 523.5 million mobile customers and 18.5 million fixed broadband customers, including India and all of the customers in Vodafones joint ventures and associates.

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