Just as UK communications regulator Ofcom revealed that a quarter of UK residential fixed broadband connections are officially superfast, leading ISPs Sky and TalkTalk are to build their own fibre network.
According to its latest survey of the UK's fixed broadband, Ofcom found that proportion of superfast connections – those offering headline speeds of 30Mbit/s or more – has risen from 5% in November 2011 to 25% in November 2013. Moreover, and offering even more support for IPTV and over-the-top (OTT) video services, the average superfast connection speed has continued to rise, reaching 47Mbit/s by November 2013 – an increase of 47%, or 15.1Mbit/s since May 2010.
Yet such high speeds are not uniformly spread around the UK, and many in the country's rural and even suburban communities don't have access to the highest packages available from ISPs. Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, commented: "The growth in superfast broadband and the rise in average speeds is testament to the investment in the sector. But the benefits are not shared evenly across the UK. There is more work needed to deliver wider availability of broadband and superfast broadband, particularly in rural communities but also in some locations within cities to enable wider access to fast Internet."
In the first steps to alleviating this situation, Sky and TalkTalk announced that they have joined forces with CityFibre to create a new company that will deliver ultra-fast broadband services in the City of York. The new joint venture company plans to build a city-wide, pure fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) network — independent from BT OpenReach's infrastructure — to deliver broadband speeds of 1Gbps direct to tens of thousands of homes and businesses, offering customers better quality and value. Once the ultra-fast network is in place, Sky and TalkTalk will retail competing broadband services over the new infrastructure, with the first York customers expected to be connected in 2015 and the parties also intend to bring ultra-fast broadband to two further cities across the UK. They say that they will announce further details about the selection of the cities in due course.
"TalkTalk has a long history and proven track record of disrupting new markets, and this is the next step in that journey," said Dido Harding, chief executive of TalkTalk Group. "We are excited to be working in partnership with Sky and CityFibre to build this new network that will offer significantly higher speeds at much better value than is currently available. This marks TalkTalk taking its first steps into investing in building infrastructure as part of our mission to make British homes and businesses better off."