Not fibre to the nerd: just sell it like it is

Nov 18, 2013

Fibre network specialist, CityFibre has teamed up with Peterborough, a smallish (200,000) but fast-growing city on the edge of the UK’s flat Fenland, to put in a fibre network. CityFibre is working with Peterborough City Council under a partnership agreement to ease the construction of a significant passive optical network in the City providing gigabit services to both residential and business users. It expects to offer gigabit service to consumers for around £25 per month. The network is seen by both sides as something that will propel Peterborough into its next growth phase and beyond.

That’s the plan. And why not? CityFibre’s charismatic, lead from the front, CEO Greg Mesch, points out that nearly all the current fibre build-out plans in the UK are London-based, but he senses a significant opportunity in what he calls tier 2 cities - expecially those that are growing (or can be expected to grow once the recession is a dim memory).

It’s pointed out that towns like Peterborough are actually quite compact and well-defined in terms of where the fibre should run - that’s a big assist with the economics and not surprisingly it will likely be towns like Peterborough that will be selected for any follow-on deployments - CityFibre says it has 100 towns and cities in the UK in its sights.

The network builder says it‘s going to lay 1000-strand passive fibre cables and when asked about the technology, points out that (actually... big secret) cable laying is not rocket science, although to hear incumbents tell the story you’d think building a fibre network was similar in complexity to digging in a large hadron collider.

I ask Mesch whether he expected a spirited competitive response from BT. “I couldn’t care less about BT,” he spat back. “Whenever I’ve been involved in building a network - and I’ve already helped build two - people are always telling me that the incumbent is going to put me out of business. Just doesn’t happen!”

Mesch is sure of his facts and brooks no naysaying from anyone. The rollout at Peterborough will start next Spring and will involve 90 km of core fibre in the key business districts data centres and mobile base stations as well as schools, hospitals and so on. This phase will complete in 18 months. Then the second phase will see gigabit services extended out to residential areas.

Mesch is neatly matched by his opposite number in the deal: Marco Cereste, leader of Peterborough City Council. Marco is clearly the other secret ingredient for any successful fibre city initiative - a tireless local activist who ‘gets’ the importance of the network for the city and possesses the blunt enthusiasm mixed with the “down to earthiness” necessary to get a hearing from the town worthies and businesses.

So there’s the technical requirement right there. No nerdy marketeers talking bits - you need personalities who clearly intend to push the network through and can explain in simple sentences why it’s a good idea.

It’s not rocket science.

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