Neos joins the UK’s FTTP brigade, plots rollout in four major cities

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Dec 14, 2021

Image by Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay.

Image by Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay.

  • Neos Networks is taking its fibre network closer to business customers
  • It is deploying metro fibre lines in four major UK cities, including London
  • Move reduces its reliance on Openreach, BT’s access network division

Having added its own data transport equipment to 550 BT exchanges across the UK as part of its Project Edge rollout, Neos Networks has now revealed plans to join the growing throng of competitive fixed broadband network operators by building access fibre networks in four major British cities as part of a move to provide its own high-speed connectivity to business premises.

The company, which has about 600 staff and an annual turnover of about £140 million, hinted at this development earlier this month when it provided an update on Project Edge, and now it has revealed its plans to build what it calls ‘Metro Access Networks” for the cities of Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and London. (For more details on its national network and supporting infrastructure, see Neos preps for a distributed data world with its Project Edge investments.)

The Liverpool network is due to go live in March 2022 and pass more than 3,100 enterprise locations; Birmingham will go live in July 2022, passing more than 2,500 businesses; the Manchester network will be switched on in October next year and will pass more than 3,500 enterprises; and the London network, due for February 2023, is set to pass more than 22,900 businesses. The rollout planning is based on potential demand ‘heatmaps’ that take various criteria (site headcounts, competitor buildouts etc) into account.

“Regionally based businesses and offices, of all sizes and across all sectors, need access to the highest available quality of connectivity if they are to keep pace with their national and international competitors,” noted Sarah Mills, MD of Wholesale and Smart Infrastructure at Neos Networks in the company’s announcement about the rollouts. 

“The UK lags behind many of its European neighbours in terms of business fibre access,” she added, “but with Project Edge we aim to help UK businesses, starting in Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester as well as those in the capital, to catch up and truly compete, not just on a level playing field, but on one tilted in their favour.”

Neos isn’t currently sharing the financial and technical specifics of its rollout. It says the funding for the builds will come from its two owners, utility firm SSE and Infracapital, which took a 50% stake in the operator in 2019 in a deal valued at up to £380 million, but it hasn’t put a figure on its expected outlay. As for the access network technology, Neos says the gear is likely to come from an existing supplier for its backbone network, which points towards more FTTP business in the UK for Nokia. 

With its focus on the enterprise customer community, Neos differs from many of the other FTTP altnets now building out their own networks across the UK, but it is still adding to the country’s fibre assets and increasing competition in the high-speed broadband market, as well as taking control of its own network and service delivery. 

The company notes in its announcement that “the move into last-mile access networks will mean the company no longer has to rely on third-party connectivity and will be able to offer regional businesses better timescales and lower costs to deliver the higher quality service associated with the company’s nationwide UK backbone business network.”

That third-party connectivity comes from Openreach, BT’s quasi-autonomous fixed access network division, which is coming under increasing pressure from alternative operators both large (such as CityFibre) and small.  (See The rise of the UK fibre broadband altnet and Britain’s broadband bottlenecks.)

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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