Vodafone and CityFibre are joining forces to roll out gigabit broadband connections to 5m homes and businesses across the UK by 2025.
The move heaps pressure on BT’s Openreach subsidiary, the owner of most of the UK’s existing broadband infrastructure, to find a retail partner to deliver its own superfast full-fibre connections.
Britain lags behind most of Europe in terms of broadband infrastructure, with just two per cent of premises able to access full-fibre, compared to 80 per cent of homes and businesses in Spain.
But CityFibre and Vodafone’s partnership will span 12 British “second-tier” cities and go some way to delivering the government’s target of 7 per cent full-fibre penetration by 2020.
CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch told reporters this morning that the firm will start by connecting 1m homes by 2021, with the option to bring a further 4m homes on to the network by 2025.
“With this commitment from Vodafone, we have a partner with whom we can transform the digital capabilities of millions of homes and businesses and establish an unassailable wholesale infrastructure position across 20 per cent of the UK broadband market,” he said.
Jeffery added that the UK has “fallen far behind the result of the world, trapped by the limited choice available on legacy networks”: “We look forward to working with CityFibre to build the Gigabit fibre network that the UK needs and deserves.”
The move was welcomed by the UK communication watchdog Ofcom. Its competition direct Jonathan Oxley said: “This shows there is real momentum behind full-fibre broadband. We’re making it quicker and easier to lay these networks, which will help support the UK’s future economy. We want to see commitment to full-fibre investment right across the industry.”
The Treasury launched a £400m fund in June to accelerate the construction of full-fibre networks. It is exclusively available to less established providers such as CityFibre, rather than BT and Virgin Media.