With an open access network set to reach up to 8 million premises, CityFibre, the UK’s largest independent full fibre platform, has opened its doors to ISPs across the UK to build on their success with residential full fibre broadband. Head of Sales for Consumer ISPs, Emma Goodwin, discusses what opportunities await traditionally business-focused ISPs looking for new growth.
Responsible for attracting, enabling and supporting ISPs in taking CityFibre services to market, Goodwin believes there is a fantastic opportunity, especially for those partners that have, up to now, focused on serving businesses and are looking to broaden their horizons and enter a new market.
“We’re already moving fast but we want to move even faster” said Goodwin. ”Our build programme is progressing swiftly and that’s really exciting. Typically, we will reach almost every premise in each of the towns and cities we’re building in, so there is every reason for our ISP partners to offer and provide full fibre services to consumers.”
CityFibre’s network is set to reach a third of the country in the next few years and recently announced a staggering 216 further locations to 69 locations already announced. It says that now is the time for ISPs to act and seize the opportunity for growth.
In the business market, for the past decade CityFibre has worked with a number of partners to drive its full fibre message in the towns and cities in which it already has infrastructure in place. Th reason is simply that the business market is where there has been the most urgent requirement for full fibre speeds. But that message is evolving as more domestic users seek out faster, more reliable services. As Goodwin explains, CityFibre is leading the charge.
“Today’s consumers need faster connectivity, not just to meet family-wide entertainment needs but to fuel much more definitive and sophisticated needs such as fully enabling video-intensive home working and access to cloud based services and information. As such, their hunger for bandwidth is even greater. Our aim is to accelerate ISPs’ ability to serve these needs through an open access full fibre network, which is a powerful message to take to partners and represents a huge opportunity for them.”
CityFibre is now inviting ISP partners who want to drive penetration and presence in the residential market.
A disruptive force
Just as it has proven to be in the business sector, CityFibre is a positively disruptive force in the consumer space. “We have a strong belief and passion in driving competition in the market” said Goodwin. “Ultimately, it’s about giving both our channel partners and their customers more choice. By fostering and nurturing competition, and by giving our ISP partners the products and tools to compete, we can move everyone towards a full fibre future that much faster”. To make that happen, CityFibre wants to partner with committed ISPs on both at a national and local level.
With a clear responsibility for attracting, enabling and supporting ISPs in taking CityFibre services to market, Goodwin believes there is a fantastic opportunity, especially for those partners that have, up to now, focused on serving businesses and are looking to broaden their horizons and enter a new market.
“The connectivity market is fiercely competitive and right now it is going through some radical changes. As people’s home connectivity needs intensify, full fibre is unquestionably the future. There is enormous potential for ISPs that have already honed their skills and experience in the business market to address the needs of today’s consumers.
“If they are already serving the business community in a town or city, they have the foundations to then also serve consumers in the same areas. It’s a great way to diversify their business, generate a new revenue stream and create greater business stability.”
Paving the way
Working with CityFibre makes sense on a number of levels, she added. “With our Gigabit City Investment Programme, we’re creating a new pathway into the consumer market for partners. For home users, full fibre is a new and exciting proposition, one that’s radically different. It’s effectively a whole new market for our traditional partners. Aside from a few national broadband players, consumers don’t have a lot of choice right now; but by positioning themselves to be that alternative choice, business ISPs will be perfectly placed to maximise the potential and scale up as more customers seek to upgrade their homes to full fibre.”
There is little doubt there is a tremendous appetite for full fibre among consumers. Nonetheless, Goodwin acknowledges that some ISPs who are used to addressing the business market might take some persuading before they are prepared to turn their sights on the consumer space. Her argument is that by making that move now, they will gain an early-mover advantage in a market that is primed for exponential growth. And CityFibre will make it as easy as it possible for them to take those steps.
There is also a critical difference and clear benefit that full fibre broadband offers to ambitious ISPs. Full fibre is much more reliable and easier to support than copper, so managing a large number of customers will equally be much easier than it would those on copper services. “Fibre is significantly more dependable, and that really matters” said Goodwin. “It makes meeting the needs of many more customers much easier. That’s important for ISPs, as it reduces the support burden and their business risk. It means they can scale up without the costs getting out of hand”.
In addition, she noted, the speeds that full fibre can offer – of up to 1Gbps – are available from CityFibre at a much more attractive price than traditional copper-based wholesale line rental (WLR) and FTTC packages. That makes it a tremendous and highly attractive upgrade proposition for all current broadband users – and with the need to support home working and schooling, as well as access to music, television, gaming and all the other online services that the modern household needs – it is easy enough to see why most homes would want full fibre.
“Consumers need the greater speed and reliability that full fibre delivers – and that’s creating a demand that, at present, is simply not being met sufficiently in most of the country” said Goodwin.
An important aspect of CityFibre’s proposition is that it is providing Layer 2 connections to its full fibre infrastructure. This leaves plenty of scope for ISPs to differentiate and add their own value, Goodwin noted. “We provide the connectivity platform, but the ISP partner is in control of what they take to market. They can make use of their existing skills, investments in infrastructure, management, billing and other capabilities to offer an entirely unique full fibre proposition. We work with them to interconnect with us locally or nationally, before then working together to set them up for success with their own propositions.”
Hit the ground running
While CityFibre is fulfilling the role of the platform provider, another big draw for ISPs is the comprehensive partner support programme that the company already has in place. “We have a lot more to offer aside from the network” said Goodwin. “We’re always prepared to go the extra mile for our partners to set them up for success in the town, city or region they are targeting. Not only do we help them onboard to our platform, we also work closely with them through project management, enablement and delivery, marketing, service management and billing before continuing to work alongside them as our build progresses. We help them to hit the ground running, which is enormously valuable to ISPs.”
The support for marketing is a particularly important element. Outside of propositions from emerging alternative providers there is little choice for consumers in the full fibre broadband market, and what competition there is comes mainly from the established big players. CityFibre has done a lot to raise its own profile and recognises the need to support ISPs to achieve a similarly high profile in the market.
“We absolutely have to and will keep building our name and reputation. CityFibre is already seen as a trusted provider of full fibre to the business market. In the consumer market we also have a powerful marketing engine and a highly experienced and skilled team, and we’re working even harder to build on that and spread the word about CityFibre partners being able to provide fast, reliable, and market-leading full fibre to consumers – and in actively supporting our partners in stimulating demand and generating new business.”
Opening the door
Several ISPs have already started addressing the consumer market with CityFibre. One clear example is HighNet, which is based in Inverness and is focused on the Scottish SME market. As an existing CityFibre business partner, it has now launched its consumer offering under the creative brand BrawBand, and is seeing early success in its target areas.
David Alldritt, Technology and Innovation Director at HighNet, said that the on-boarding process and the results to date have been very promising. “We knew CityFibre well and we already had the network infrastructure in place, so it would have felt like a missed opportunity if we had not taken it. It was just a question of making the transition from our comfortable, B2B environment, into the B2C market.”
HighNet was principally concerned about the challenge of supporting consumer customers and how the business processes and the economics could be managed. “That was a big unknown and a bit of a concern initially. We took the decision to automate as much as possible and put a zero-touch provisioning service in place.”
It took around four months to hold discussions with CityFibre, crystalise the strategy, come up with a brand and develop a website, design the business processes, carry out the necessary integration work needed for the automatic provisioning, and finally, run a pilot. The BrawBand service was fully launched in mid-January 2021 and it has quickly attracted customers. By the Springtime, HighNet was comfortably on target to achieve its goal for the year.
Night and day
While there was a lot of work to do, CityFibre provided HighNet with excellent support throughout. “As part of the on-boarding process, CityFibre went through various sessions with a number of departments of HighNet and they proved to be very fruitful and enlightening”, said Kenny Tunn, Technical Project Manager. “It certainly gave us that comfort factor that the processes were there. We were not quite sure what we’d be facing in the consumer market, so that was very reassuring.”
CityFibre went through the whole end-to-end process with HighNet, covering ordering, installation, customer service, and every other aspect of working with consumer customers. David Munro, Head of Product at HighNet described the on-boarding experience with CityFibre as being vastly superior to that offered by other wholesalers. “CityFibre was pro-active in getting us on-boarded, setting up regular meetings, telling us what needed to be done – it was like night and day compared to some other experiences we’ve had.”
While HighNet is a shining example of a proactive business ISP entering the consumer market with real gusto, there are plenty of other locations the length of the UK in which CityFibre has already begun or will be building its full fibre platform – a ready market for more success-hungry ISPs. Goodwin believes there are a number of ISPs who are currently focused on the business market who could address the consumer market just as effectively.
“Any ISP that has the capability can take advantage of our open access offering and tailor it to a targeted consumer market” she said. “With the tremendous surge we are seeing in demand for higher speed connectivity in the home, the opportunity is simply gigantic. CityFibre is ready to provide the end-to-end support ISPs need to get onboard, develop a differentiated proposition and start taking it to consumers. We are opening the door to a huge and completely new opportunity. It will be an exciting journey – both for our partners and for CityFibre.”
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