Three ISPs sign up for Bournemouth sewer fibre

One of Britain's first fibre-to-the-home networks, which uses the sewer system for connectivity, has moved a step closer to going live

Fibrecity, the wholesale fibre network operator that is rolling out high-speed connectivity to Bournemouth homes and businesses through the town's sewer system, has signed up its first three retail ISPs for the scheme.

The ISPs, announced on Wednesday, are Fibreband, Velocity1 and Vispa. They will be able to start offering retail services within weeks.

Elfed Thomas, chief executive of Fibrecity's parent company i3 Group, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that the decision to wholesale the fibre network was about choice. "We don't want someone strangleholding the network. It's about creating the platform that gives the customer the choice," he said.

The announcement means Bournemouth now has three major telecoms players: BT offers 24Mbps ADSL2+ services in the town, while Virgin Media offers 50Mbps.

Asked whether Velocity1's services would be cost competitive, James Saunders, the ISP's managing director, said: "You have to be. If you are going to displace services, price has to be compelling."

Velocity1 looks set to undercut Virgin Media. It will offer broadband, TV and phone services — the so-called 'triple-play' bundle — for £29.99 per month, and broadband as a standalone service for £19.99 per month. Virgin Media's nearest comparable bundle to the triple-play package costs £33.50 per month, while its standalone broadband is priced at £38 per month. BT offers slower, copper-based broadband services in Bournemouth.

Fibreband will charge £19.95 for the triple-play package with 25Mbps broadband, and £49.95 for the same package with 100Mbps broadband. Vispa is yet to reveal its pricing.

Businesses are likely to be offered dark fibre connectivity as well as the more consumer-type services offered by Fibreband, Velocity1 and Vispa. Dark fibre connectivity from Fibrecity is likely to be cheaper than buying a leased line from BT, but business customers will need to have the skills in-house to manage the connection.

Fibrecity says its costs are low: it has spent just £500 to connect each home, because of the amount of fibre built into the sewers rather than dug into the road. Typically, fibre-to-the-home rollouts cost £1,000 per home, but this varies considerably depending on how they are deployed.

Fibrecity hopes to sign up Bournemouth Borough Council as one of its main customers. At the moment, the council's only use of the network entails a WAN link between its offices and the Bournemouth International Centre, a convention centre, but the council is keen to extend that arrangement.

"[The WAN link] was really a proof of concept," Tony Williams, executive director for environment and the economy for the council, told ZDNet UK. "There are a number of options we would like to explore."

Fibrecity is also building out sewer-based networks in South Ayrshire, Dundee and Sheffield. Bournemouth residents will be the first to receive services.

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