Leading the charge for Gigabit Cities

Mark Collins

CityFibre has been very busy of late as it continues the push of its Gigabit City project. We managed to get some time with Mark Collins, director of Strategy and Public Affairs at CityFibre, ahead of his appearance at next week’s Broadband World Forum.

Hi Mark, can you please tell our readers a bit about CityFibre?

CityFibre is the UK’s leading alternative digital infrastructure provider. We operate a wholesale model and are the company behind the growing number of Gigabit City projects in the UK. We have over 40 major metro fibre footprints and a national long distance network.

We provide pure fibre connectivity solutions for business ISPs and resellers, service integrators, public sector customers, mobile operators and data centres. We’re also running the UK’s first major trial of Fibre to the Home in a joint venture with Sky and TalkTalk.

What is it about CityFibre that has led it to being as nimble and responsive as it has been?

We are still a young company and as such are in a position to move much faster than most infrastructure players. We are building our business in this rapidly evolving market and not simply being forced to adapt like an incumbent must. Our wholesale model puts us in an exciting position to compete at a national level with Openreach and it is safe to say the industry is crying out for infrastructure competition.

So what are the main challenges you face in rolling out fibre?

It is safe to say though that the biggest single challenge on large roll-outs is securing way-leaves [a right of way granted by a landowner, generally in exchange for payment and typically for purposes such as the erection of telegraph wires or laying of pipes] but that would come as no surprise

There’s increasing talk at the moment about “gigabit cities”. For the benefit of our audience can you tell us why this is becoming more important?

As the company behind the UK’s Gigabit City movement – we have 18 Gigabit City projects already – we are driving this conversation. Ultimately digital infrastructure in our towns and cities is under immense pressure as the demands for bandwidth and low latency grow exponentially in every sector – both public and private. Only by addressing the need for fit-for-purpose digital infrastructure will we be able to ensure the UK can compete and succeed in a digital world.

The solution to this problem is the Gigabit City. Ultimately this means providing the entire city with access to a single, purpose built pure fibre infrastructure capable of transforming the way businesses, public sector bodies, mobile operators and ultimately residents use the internet. This is our vision and we are fast making it a reality.

That sounds amazing! So what are the key benefits that you see that underpin gigabit cities and what are the wider implications of not upgrading our infrastructure?

Clearly future-proof infrastructure has the capability to support a city’s digital requirements now and for decades to come. Pure fibre networks are unencumbered by legacy copper assets and legacy copper-based business models. In a gigabit city, gigabit speeds become the new benchmark, moving businesses into a world beyond bandwidth where they are in a positon to take full advantage of the new generation of cloud services.

Mobile operators too are desperate to improve connectivity to mobile masts. As 4G rolls-out and data-usage on mobile devices increase exponentially – only pure fibre infrastructure can truly remove the bandwidth bottle necks that impact customer experience.

If we don’t upgrade our cities’ infrastructure soon, we will be left behind. We are already well behind much of the world in pure fibre roll-outs so we have a big job to do – and fast.

Beyond mere speed though what else we can look forward to with this pure fibre deployment? What do you see as the true innovations, the killer app as it were, that will help gigabit projects reach critical mass?

Some key innovations that will drive demand for connectivity even faster include 5G and the burgeoning Internet of Things. The raw power of ubiquitous pure fibre infrastructure and our agility as a business sees us perfectly positioned to catalyze these developments.

With all of this still to do, what impact do you think Britain leaving the EU will have upon your business? Are there opportunities?

Ultimately, Britain’s exit from the EU will only increase the pressure on our businesses to drive efficiency and productivity and to compete internationally. It has never been more important or more urgent to ensure we enable our nation’s business community with access to the very best internet connectivity available. We are disproportionately reliant on digital as a percentage of our GDP when compared to other countries so we must ensure we do not hobble ourselves at a time when we need to build on our strengths.

What excites you most about gigging up cities?

The speed at which the benefits are felt by the entire community. It is very special and rewarding to be at the heart of such transformational change.

Where next for CityFibre?

Continued commercialization of our footprint, growing our partner base and enabling innovation.

What are you looking forward to most at Broadband World Forum?

Sharing our story. We have gone from regional focus to a national player in less than a year – so much has happened in such a short time that we can’t wait to meet with people and update them.

It is clear we have huge support from the industry as a whole as the business introducing infrastructure competition to the UK market. BBWF will be a fantastic opportunity to turn this support into action that benefits us all.

Thank you Mark for taking the time to talk to us, we look forward to seeing you at BBWF next week.

Mark Collins will be speaking at next week’s Broadband World Forum event at London’s ExCel Convention Centre. Limited free passes are available, click here now to get yours.


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