The golden “One Touch Switch”: How UK Altnets will go from strength to strength in 2023 and beyond
Wholesale broadband is increasingly important for Altnets as they continue to connect millions of homes and businesses across the UK, according to industry experts.
Changes to the regulatory landscape and the wider economy mean strong partnerships will help the sector better serve the public.
By the end of 2022, Altnets had already helped connect 11 million premises and the industry will continue to deliver on its promise of high-speed connections for all.
“The sector is pretty robust,” says Malcolm Corbett, Chief Executive of the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA), representing 90% of the UK’s Altnets.
“There’s £20 billion of investment behind Altnets. That’s a significant chunk of money. Those investors are not charities, and they want to see a return on that investment.
“But they’re investing in infrastructure and taking a long view. This means people in the UK are getting increased access to reliable, gigabit-speed connections.”
Malcolm believes regulatory changes will mean closer cooperation between UK Altnets and the leading players in the market. All of which is great news for broadband customers.
He explains: “Together, we’ve reached around 40% of premises with full-fibre connections. We reached 11 million premises by the end of 2022.
“There’s significant growth, but there’s still a long way to go.
“The focus is moving from being all on build to a lot more focus on access to customers. That’s where Virgin Media Business can come in effectively.
“Wholesale is becoming a more practical proposition. It allows Altnets to move beyond the early-adopter phase.
“For newer Altnets building networks and establishing their brands, it’s harder to reach beyond early adopters without access to wholesale networks—that’s how the leading players in the market can work in harmony with Altnets.”
A game-changer for Altnets in 2023 will be Ofcom’s introduction of One Touch Switch.
“It makes it easier for a customer to go to a new provider. There are fewer barriers to moving. Not just through ISP, but also between different networks,” says Malcolm.
“That opens up more opportunities for investment…With that investment comes increasing choice for consumers.
“There’s a natural alliance between Virgin Media and the Altnets. In Virgin Media areas, there’s potential for alliances or sympathetic activity.
“Virgin Media also provides business services Altnets need to connect back to the internet. There’s an opportunity to supply business services.
“It’s a good thing to encourage Altnets to understand where Virgin Media can provide those services. An awful lot of business can be done.”
The return of fibre tax may have been the biggest issue for Altnets in 2022, however INCA believes it is no threat to the viability of dark fibre as a solution.
To learn more about fibre tax, download your free guide here
Malcolm says: “While fibre tax could still be an issue for Altnets, there are also concerns with labour and skills. We’re seeing quite a lot of wage and supply inflation.
“There‘s a lot of talent in the sector. And that talent is starting to make an impact. But we are looking at recruitment and retention, diversity training and upskilling to consolidate it.”
INCA is optimistic about the future of UK connectivity. “If we work together, we have a reasonable chance to succeed,” says Malcolm.
“The UK is moving up the league table. Until recently we were bottom of the league in terms of full-fibre connectivity.
“Now we’re moving up rapidly. Today we are one of the fastest growing and the UK is among the leaders.”
At Virgin Media Business Wholesale, our team are on-hand for a friendly introduction, whatever stage you’re at. Ask us what we can do to help support your network expansion by getting in touch with us at WholesaleBD@virginmedia.co.uk