Putting collaboration at the heart of building a legacy


Fibre leadership

Putting collaboration at the heart of building a legacy

Richard Thorpe, Chief Delivery Officer, CityFibre

27 June 2022

Richard Thorpe

At CityFibre we are playing a leading role in supporting the Government’s levelling up agenda through the rapid rollout of our Full Fibre digital infrastructure. To achieve this, we have pioneered new ways of working with our Build Partners; the construction groups we selected to help us scale our build. They’re the boots on the ground, enabling us to transform the digital landscape of the UK with symmetrical, gigabit speed connections that will benefit this generation and many more to come.

By 2025, we will have connected up to 8 million homes to Full Fibre, across 285 towns, cities and villages, establishing a third national network for people to access. It's an ambitious target and when we reach it, it will be due to a collective effort of the team at CityFibre and every Build Partner who works collaboratively with us day in day out. It’s also an incredibly important ambition as one in three of the locations we will cover has been identified by the government as being most in need of levelling up funding. The critical national infrastructure we are delivering with our Build Partners will support economic growth and productivity improvements right across the UK. It will narrow the digital divide and generate billions of pounds for the economy over the long term.

No simple task

Building every mile of our fibre network to our industry-leading standards is no simple task. Like us, our Build Partners are committed to our vision and play their part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build Full Fibre infrastructure that is better by design and has a reputation for excellence. This commitment to our shared vision is something we are keen to reward. To support this we have reinvented the way we engage with our Build Partners, winning hearts and minds, and ultimately ensuring their success goes hand-in-hand with ours. This ‘One Team’ approach has been extremely well received: so far, we have Build Partners in place for almost all premises in our plan, and we are now the UK's largest independent Full Fibre platform.

Achieving our Build Partners' buy-in started by providing them with a high degree of certainty. Rather than inviting tenders for one or two cities at a time, we released 26 cities all at once. This powerful statement of intent demonstrates that when it comes to building our infrastructure, we are in it for the long haul.

Earlier this month, we secured a £4.9 billion debt financing, fully financing our nationwide rollout. Our business, and the introduction of infrastructure competition into the UK market, is now backed by many of the world’s leading financial institutions.

Among these, we are proud to include the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB), recognising CityFibre's contribution to critical national infrastructure deployment and the government's levelling up programme.

This new debt package puts us on a stable financial platform to deliver our plans and represents a huge vote of confidence in how we operate - and how we do business with our partners.

Succeeding and growing together

This isn’t just lip service. When we sign a contract with a Build Partner, we are committing to a high-volume long term relationship. The contracts we sign are also exclusive and cover an entire city-wide deployment. This helps our Build Partners with their growth plans, allowing them to forecast and recruit the skills needed to deliver the high calibre of infrastructure required with confidence.

Through our Build Partner centric approach we have teams dedicated to helping them source materials and suppliers when needed. We also offer to help them tackle other issues they may face along the way, for example, by working with planning departments at local authorities. If it means we can get our fibre networks deployed where they are needed and in a timely fashion, then we're more than happy to share the challenges.

We have also adopted agile working methods that enable us to be more flexible with the terms of our network contracts. For example, we have maintained the ability to tweak our payment terms so that we can help our Build Partners manage their resources in the short term should they ever need it. This flexibility is especially important given the economic and supply challenges we face together as an industry and a country. Everyone wins: our Build Partners have room to breathe, we can keep the network deployment on track, and the UK gets closer to fulfilling its ambitions.

Striking the right balance

When the balance is right, CityFibre and our Build Partners achieve joint long term growth. Productivity is the natural consequence of our intelligent and flexible way of working and is never pursued at the cost of quality. Our deployment is on schedule because of this collaborative approach, not in spite of it. Rather than insist on productivity no matter the cost, we prefer to focus on the right way of working and let productivity flow from that.

Overriding all of this though, is the safety and well-being of every individual working on our Full Fibre rollout. Put simply: sending people home safe and well every night is the most important thing we can do as an industry. This is not just an aspirational goal. As chair of the recently-established SHiFT (Safety and Health in Fibre Telecoms) Group, CityFibre – alongside 25 network builders and operators including Openreach, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone – we are leading an effort to improve health and safety standards across the entire industry. In April, we received a Gold Health and Safety Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), in recognition of our work to ensure staff and Build Partners operate in a safe environment.

From top-to-bottom, CityFibre is dedicated to building a legacy that we and our Build Partners can be proud of. And it's a legacy that will transform the digital capability of the nation as well as underpin our economy for years to come.