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CityFibre and Gigaclear aim to close UK digital divide

Two alternative broadband providers in the UK have joined forces to boost the roll-out of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in rural regions.

Alternative infrastructure provider CityFibre is best known for its ‘Gigabit City’ programme to deploy fibre networks in second-tier cities in the UK, while Gigaclear is approaching the problem from the other perspective, by rolling out fibre networks to rural communities.

Now the pair have formed a strategic partnership that will help ‘to dramatically accelerate the roll-out of next-generation ultrafast internet access to hundreds of thousands of rural homes and businesses across the UK’, according to a statement.

Gigaclear has connected some 20,000 rural homes to date, and plans to reach 50,000 by the end of the year. It estimates that 1.5 million properties could benefit from its services.

Thanks to the partnership, Gigaclear will be able to accelerate its deployment of rural fibre networks, by using CityFibre’s long-distance network as a new backhaul option for its future deployments.

Under the agreement, Cityfibre can offer access to its metro duct and fibre footprints in 37 cities across the UK and a national long distance network that connects these cities to major data centres across the UK and to key peering points in London (see CityFibre expands nationally with KCOM network purchase).

Greg Mesch, chief executive of CityFibre said: ‘We are delighted to formalise a partnership with Gigaclear which shares such a complementary agenda. We have long been aware of the huge levels of demand for better internet connectivity in rural areas surrounding our urban network projects. It is a national embarrassment that residents and businesses in rural areas, and indeed many of those in towns and cities, have been left in the digital dark ages. Pure fibre infrastructure is the 21st century utility and is an essential component to everyday life.’

Both operators see themselves as competitors to BT’s Openreach division, which owns the majority of Britain’s broadband infrastructure. BT’s deployment of true fibre connections has been limited, instead preferring fibre to the cabinet, and in the future G.fast. However, the former incumbent recently promised to reach a further 2 million premises with FTTP (see BT touts £6B ultrafast broadband investment).

In recent months both Gigaclear and CityFibre have raised substantial new investment from highly regarded portfolio of investors, which they say demonstrates the market’s confidence in the need for alternative network infrastructure providers (see Gigaclear rural broadband plan gets €25M EIB support).

Matthew Hare, chief executive at Gigaclear said: ‘Bringing brilliant broadband to rural Britain has its challenges. This partnership with CityFibre gives Gigaclear access to more capacity, faster delivery and more flexible bandwidth across the country. It helps us build Gigabit networks where other operators do not reach, to meet the demand for better broadband from homes and businesses.’

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