Go back a few years and our industry was alive with talk about the exciting future of Dark Fibre Access (DFA). It was going to break the UK connectivity stronghold, encouraging competition and potentially bringing about a level playing field for all operators.
Unfortunately, things have not quite panned out the way many of us had thought they might. Uncertainty about how we as a nation will meet our connectivity challenges is rife. And no one solution seems apt to providing the access businesses and consumers need. All at a time when the need for network expansion has rarely been greater.
With this in mind, we at SSE Enterprise Telecoms are reaffirming our commitment to creating an innovative, successful solution to the connectivity issues Britain is facing. But instead of doing so in isolation, we’re doing it collaboratively, working with partners and drawing on our vast expertise to light up the network and deliver better connectivity to the UK.
Where our innovation is focused
Network expansion is a complex challenge. So it comes as no surprise that no one solution will adequately tackle all of the connectivity challenges we’re facing in the UK today. Similarly, it can’t be left to any one single provider to shoulder the full burden of futureproofing UK connectivity. Instead, to enhance fibre access and improve network reach, we need to work collaboratively, with intelligent, co-developed network build outs that are aligned to both market needs and commercial objectives.
We’ve already demonstrated this several times, with recent projects in London with Three and O2. As well as the unbundling of almost 200 BT exchanges to boost connectivity for British businesses.
Key to the success of these projects (and others like them) is their strategic, targeted nature. We’re not working with ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy, which is too risky and could fail to adequately consider other UK connectivity objectives, like the planned roll out of 5G or the dawn of IoT in smart cities. Rather, we’re looking at specific connectivity challenges and partnering with like-minded experts to solve them.
We see last mile access as being key here, and would welcome a fresh look at this market, with specific attention paid to how local network expansion could encourage competition and eliminate industrial and commercial black holes. Put simply, we need to improve networks where it will matter, not just where it can be monetised.
New network expansion ideas
We still very much feel that network expansion can bring about huge beneficial change to the UK. As such, we have invested heavily in a ‘dark fibre-like’ network on a vast scale. The purpose of this is firstly to serve specific customer needs, including an enhanced 4G experience; and secondly to support Three UK’s network transformation, preparing the ground for the launch of 5G.
Beyond that, we are turning our attention to the place infrastructure can play in network improvement.
For example, we’re looking to change the way operators think about infrastructure access and sharing. Because as times change it clearly makes sense to think more collaboratively about these things, with an open-minded approach to sharing space that balances commercialism with the actual objectives we’re trying to bring about.
And we’re looking at innovative ways to draw on our existing infrastructure. Such as using waste water systems and other available utilities spaces to lay new fibre networks. An idea that will not only deliver the fibre capability we need, but also reduce distribution costs and speed up deployment by up to 10 times (in comparison to today’s often intrusive, disruptive and costly digs).
New ideas to solve existing problems
The way Britain will solve its connectivity challenges is changing from what was once envisioned. But that doesn’t mean we can’t deliver on the exciting objectives set for solutions like DFA by Ofcom and partners. Right now, our innovative thinking and new solutions are creating new ways to light up UK networks, offering better connectivity and value. And solutions are really what matters when it comes to connectivity.