With fast and reliable broadband an essential utility for most people, it is deeply concerning that the installation of true full-fibre infrastructure in the UK is lagging far behind many other countries
However, a significant obstacle to its progress continues to be an underappreciation of the benefits only a true full-fibre network can provide, among developers and policymakers alike.
It is not surprising that developers are confused. While a true full-fibre network brings a fibre-optic cable into every property within a development, many organisations are currently selling older hybrid copper/fibre networks as a ‘fibre’ network. This is likely to have serious repercussions, as hybrid networks will need replacing in the next 10 to 15 years once the benefits of full fibre become apparent to all. In comparison, true full-fibre infrastructure is likely to outlive the building.
Among many other examples, 5G networks enabled by true full fibre introduce the possibility of remotely connected building infrastructure.
Smoke and intruder alarms, along with water-flow sensors, are perhaps the best examples of these, allowing developers to provide offsite access to building control systems. These functions would not only achieve increased building efficiency, but also a considerable reduction in risk and insurance premiums. Greater interconnectivity between heating and ventilation controls would also considerably reduce energy costs and improve overall building conditions.
Furthermore, an underappreciated benefit of full-fibre broadband for developers is the possible income from mobile operators, which will want to locate their 5G small-cell antennas on full-fibre-enabled buildings.
The UK is in desperate need of high quality broadband infrastructure to remain competitive and many smaller and more innovative companies are in a great position to provide this. It is now up to the government to support and encourage their growth. Easing the ability for those building true full fibre networks to sign new wayleaves would undoubtedly prove to be a step in the right direction.
With concerns over the UK’s broadband competitiveness increasingly becoming a political issue, especially within the context of a hard Brexit, the current government’s plans to deliver “full-fibre” by 2033 should focus on adequate investment, clear definitions and a commitment to delivering genuine full-fibre for all.
Nonetheless, the most notable benefits of installing full-fibre broadband for developers relate to the increased yields that can be achieved from higher rents or selling prices. Indeed, this has the potential to become more significant in the near future, as a growing number of tenants and buyers search for first-rate internet connections as a necessary provision for their new home.
In light of this, it is clear that true full-fibre broadband should be the priority for developers looking to future-proof their buildings.
Jeremy Chelot, chief executive of Community Fibre