CityFibre has inked contracts with four civil engineering firms that will enable to crack on with building fibre network infrastructure in tricky locations using the government funding it won earlier this year.

Mary Lennighan

September 22, 2023

3 Min Read
CityFibre

CityFibre has inked contracts with four civil engineering firms that will enable to crack on with building fibre network infrastructure in tricky locations using the government funding it won earlier this year.

The fibre network operator shared details of the companies it will use to start the building work for fibre infrastructure in Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Granemore Group, OCU Group, CCN Communications and Telelink will get the projects underway in the various counties, in most cases working across more than one location each.

The first homes passed by the network rollout will be in Cambridgeshire sometime in October, CityFibre said.

That makes sense. Cambridgeshire was the first location CityFibre won under the government’s Project Gigabit back in March, when it secured £69 million worth of funding to cover 45,000 premises. Awards in the other three counties followed in July and together are worth £318 million and will provide fibre network coverage to 218,000 homes and businesses.

CityFibre will add some of its own cash into the pot too. It will supplement the government’s £387 million with £223 million from its own pocket, taking the total bill to £610 million.

“We’re excited to get our Project Gigabit rollouts underway, bringing faster and more reliable broadband connectivity to hundreds of thousands of rural homes and businesses areas that were at risk of missing out,” said CityFibre chief executive Greg Mesch.

“With the legacy copper networks in these areas soon to be made obsolete, we look forward to providing all Internet Service Providers a powerful new network from which to better serve their customers,” he added.

While the homes facilitated the Project Gigabit funding are in areas that are not economically viable to cover from a commercial perspective, CityFibre made it clear when it won the Hampshire, Norfolk and Suffolk contracts that it believes they will be attractive to its ISP customers, in no small part because of the lack of a competing high-speed, Gigabit-capable infrastructure; neither Openreach nor one of the small-scale community-based fibre builders has ventured into these areas, apparently.

If that turns out to be the case, Project Gigabit should prove popular amongst network builders, once it starts to build some momentum.

As it stands, the project is progressing pretty slowly. Conceived by the government with the remit of covering hard-to-reach areas with Gigabit-capable broadband – mainly, but not exclusively – fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) – Project Gigabit has been around for years, but the first actual funding awards came in August last year. The government has £5 billion to dole out, as it constantly reminds us, but to date has allocated less than £600 million, more than half of which has gone to CityFibre. There have been no new contract awards since the ones the telco picked up in July.

Indeed, arguably the most important aspect of this latest announcement from CityFibre about selecting contractors is the fact that someone is finally about to break ground on a reasonably-sized rollout under Project Gigabit. From the government’s point of view, that’s a huge step in the right direction. After all, it’s insistence on crowbarring the headline £5 billion figure into every UK broadband-related announcement was starting to wear a little thin, given that no one was actually digging.

 

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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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