The Dark Fibre door to new and transformational UK opportunity is ajar

The Dark Fibre door to new and transformational UK opportunity is ajar

22 June 2016

by Caroline Hughes Whether you’re planning to consume it or not, dark fibre is unarguably a platform for seismic change and innovation within our industry. It has the power to give providers of all sizes ultimate control over the solutions they offer – setting them free from selling the like-for-like services that are provided by the wholesale divisions of their largest competitors. Designing and deploying dark fibre based solutions does require in-house (or outsourced) technical and operational capabilities. And it’s true that many won’t have these skills right now. So, at a direct consumption level it may not be for everyone. But, regardless of this, they’ll be no avoiding the ripple effect of new services available on a wholesale basis from those who can consume, and of course, the likely emergence of a new breed of intermediaries with the skills and wherewithal to bridge the gap that exists between a provider's limited technical resources today and their relentless desire to be different tomorrow.

Breaking the link between bandwidth and cost:

In a world where there's seemingly no let up for bandwidth demand, every ‘inevitable’ managed service addition or upgrade drives a direct increase in operational costs. Leased, dark-fibre based solutions can break that linear relationship by providing a virtually limitless bandwidth capability that can be divvied up any which way you choose. Services can be dumbed down, made state of the art, or boosted for limited periods – simply by opening doors to a far wider range of equipment choices and choosing to break free from today’s restrictions.

Don't rule out significant structural changes…

Let's consider those who grasp the opportunity to develop their own dark-fibre based strategy. Should we expect to see consolidation and strategic partnership among larger players? Will smaller companies who show true innovation become attractive to larger players who may wish to partner, merge or even acquire their business models and expertise? Our industry is certainly known for recognising talent and opportunity and acting accordingly – so my guess is yes to all of this.

Who's already lighting up the dark?

Commsworld is a great example of a leading provider who's already using our Edinburgh network to drive local government efficiency and boost opportunities for local enterprise at large. In fact, a dark-fibre based solution was used by them to serve the EICC Insomnia Gaming Conference recently, where it enabled them to dial up bandwidth to 10Gbit/s just for the duration of the event - with total reliability. Gamers themselves represent some of the most demanding customers of all when it comes to speed, low-latency and network certainty. They know exactly what they want and what good looks like. And of course, flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to connecting events of almost any kind. Another great example is Exa Networks' brilliantly executed DarkLight concept which offers highly flexible and price-competitive services for schools and businesses - boasting great speeds, one to one contention, hassle free upgrades and more besides. They've clearly recognised the raw benefits that dark fibre presents and are extracting them to differentiate themselves and provide highly-attractive services which also deliver great margins. Although they're not alone, both Exa Networks and Commsworld exemplify a breed of future-savvy communications providers who are taking control of the connections that underpin their services and using that to innovate and secure a reputation for top notch customer service and technical know-how.

The role of an alternative network provider:

The connectivity demands of millions of UK businesses are enough to support well over a thousand communications providers today. Yet the choice afforded to those providers themselves remains limited – partly through actual availability of an alternative, but in many cases, a slower than ideal adoption of the alternatives available. This means that an end customer who is unhappy with the service he receives can often vote with his feet by switching the name on his bill, but, in reality, still remains reliant on exactly the same network and underlying service management that may well have driven his frustration to switch in the first place. Although new, independent national networks don’t appear overnight, alternative infrastructure providers like us do have the power to change all of this and the more we are used, the larger we can grow. Collectively we represent the opportunity for communications providers to:
  • Break free from dependency on one main infrastructure provider and even vote with their feet when service isn’t where it should be
  • Give their own customers true (rather than pseudo) choice over network provider for the first time
  • Gain more control over connections than they currently have via like-for-like wholesale products
  • Innovate more and offer businesses a step change in speed and quality via a modern fibre network (i.e. not based on outdated tree-and-branch-type architecture).

So what about us?

At CityFibre we’re single minded about bringing true, independent, modern-fibre network choice to UK providers. Fuelled by rising demand, our network footprint is growing faster than ever. We already have dense metro networks in over 37 UK cities and we operate a true partnership approach – with no retail arm or risk of hidden agenda. Although we offer market-differentiated active services across much of our footprint, we were founded, first and foremost, to bring the power of affordable dark fibre to the UK. And we especially love working with innovators in that space. Whether our partners want to trial a dark fibre model on a small scale first, deploy it across one city en-masse or be a dark fibre anchor partner for a new city-build, we can help. We also support longer-term adoption strategies by enabling our active services to be deployed into a geographic area first, then migrated to a dark fibre model as and when it makes sense to do so. Most importantly perhaps, we aim always to be the most affordable provider and the easiest to do business with. Commercially, nothing is off the table.