English ISP KCom plans to spend £100 million building out full fibre infrastructure in the north east of England, a move that might just help it to address the growing competition in the UK fibre market.

Mary Lennighan

September 12, 2022

3 Min Read
KCom gets competitive with £100 million fibre splurge

English ISP KCom plans to spend £100 million building out full fibre infrastructure in the north east of England, a move that might just help it to address the growing competition in the UK fibre market.

The telco, incumbent operator in and around the city of Hull, said the bulk of the sum – £62 million, to be precise – will fund high-speed network expansion to 50,000 homes and businesses in 14 towns and villages across the region. It will also spend £10 million upgrading 14,000 properties in East Yorkshire that do not currently have full fibre, £17 million replacing copper lines in Hull with fibre, and £10 million on a long-term upgrade of its existing fibre network to raise download speeds to 10 Gbps.

KCom chief executive Tim Shaw published a statement accompanying the news in which he waxed lyrical about the telco’s recent network investment plans, harking back first to the completion of its fibre network in Hull in 2019. As an aside, Shaw described that feat, which he noted made Hull the first full fibre broadband city in the country, as coming “more than a decade ahead of the rest of the UK,” which is perhaps a strange comment to make given that it’s only 2022 now. But anyway…

KCom announced its first £100 million plan to reach an additional 100,000 properties in East Yorkshire and in North Lincolnshire, the latter being outside its traditional footprint, in 2020. It’s probably no coincidence that that investment plan came shortly after the operator announced its £627 million takeover by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets.

Almost three years on and there’s another £100 million going into the operator’s infrastructure. Or as Shaw puts it, “now, in that same pioneering spirit we are forging ahead again.” Which sounds like something of an overstatement when you consider how much has changed in the UK market in recent years, both in KCom’s part of the world and further afield.

And the major difference is that regional fibre builders are springing up left, right and centre, and in many places we’re looking at overbuild and fairly strong competition.

East of England fibre provider Upp celebrates the first anniversary of its first connected customer this month, and a glance at its website shows that its planned footprint is heading KCom’s way. Meanwhile PE-backed Quickline moved into its new HQ in East Yorkshire in August and said it plans to double its 130-strong workforce over the next year. And there are others.

It’s a fine line between ‘pioneering’ and ‘keeping pace.’

Nonetheless, another hundred million pounds being channelled into UK infrastructure is, of course, a positive for the country, and not only for those living in areas earmarked for upgrade.

“This £100m investment is a statement of confidence in our business, our region and our future as we make our region one of the best connected in the UK and beyond,” Shaw said. “This investment will be a major boost to the local economy creating dozens of skilled jobs and enhancing local supply chains.”

Specifically, KCom said the new build plan will create up 50 new skilled engineering jobs in the region. Further, the telco is ploughing £500,000 into the expansion of its digital inclusion schemes over the next three years.

It’s ticking a lot of boxes with this announcement. But more than anything else this remains a story of growing competition in UK fibre.

 

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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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