Darren Shenkin, the director of products and propositions at fibre specialists Hyperoptic, is taking part in a panel debate on the ROI for increasing broadband speeds, as part of the Access Evolution stream on Day Two of the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 21st – 23rd October 2014 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. In this interview we find out the issues Shenkin has with how fibre is currently marketed in the UK and his views on whether the economics for true FTTH are viable.
What progress is Hyperoptic making in the UK since its 2011 launch?
The reception to our full fibre symmetrical broadband has been phenomenal – so far we have signed 150 developments, passing 35,000 homes in London. We have also announced that we were expanding to Cardiff, Reading, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.
What are the biggest challenges holding FTTH back?
The biggest challenge has been educating the market, as there is a lot of confusion about what ‘fibre’ broadband actually is. The large providers have muddied the waters by marketing their services as ‘fibre’ broadband, even though the fibre actually stops at the cabinet and the connection into the house is delivered over telephone copper cables. This means that businesses and consumers think that they are getting full fibre broadband, but it’s actually fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) – which is why they get an undependable performance and peak-time slowdowns.
How can costs be driven down to make FTTH more affordable?
The broadband critics who claim that FTTH is economically unviable are incorrect – just look at the global FTTH adoption figures. China and Japan currently have 37 million and 24.7 million FTTH subscribers. France and Sweden now exceed 1.2 million FTTH subscribers each. Other countries recognise the long-term economic return of investing in FTTH, but the UK doesn’t even figure on FTTH leaderboards. We aim to change this and show businesses and consumers that there is a better way.
“Investment in FTTH is excessive for most businesses and residential customers”. How would you argue against this statement?
Telecoms is a capital intensive business for the providers, but not for the customers. We are working towards a long-term return – FTTH infrastructure is future-proofed for the next generation. We usually install our fibre for free and the packages we offer are very competitively priced, with prices starting at £25 for symmetrical 20Mbps broadband and a phone with free weekend and evening calls.
What are you most looking forward to about your speaking role at the Broadband World Forum?
Obviously a key benefit of speaking at such a respected industry event is that we get an opportunity to further educate the market about the merits of FTTH. The audience of Broadband World Forum contains some of the most noted figures in broadband today, so being able to tell them about the excellent work we are doing is very valuable. From a personal perspective, I also think it is an excellent place to network with my peers and potential suppliers – it’s great to learn about the latest innovations and how they can work in practice. I can then take these learning’s home to further enhance our products and propositions.