CityFibre Provides EE And Three With Dark Fibre Backhaul

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EE and Three to benefit from backhaul in Hull, but CityFibre agreement provides scope for rest of the country

CityFibre is to provide EE, Three and the two mobile operators’ infrastructure joint-venture Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL) with the UK’s first dark fibre backhaul connections in a bid to improve performance.

The first masts to be connected are in Hull, where CityFibre is currently upgrading MBNL’s network, but the parties have signed a national framework agreement, which would allow similar connectivity to take place in other cities across the UK.

“Between them, EE and Three carry about 75 percent of the data used by UK mobile users, so we are thrilled to announce this market-leading partnership,” says Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre. “This framework illustrates a valuable new segment in CityFibre’s Gigabit City model for ubiquitous fibre connectivity.”

Dark fibre backhaul

FibreEE and Three, the latter of which also has a backhaul agreement with Virgin Media Business, are building the next part of their basic 4G networks together by sharing mast infrastructure and the cost of transmission between the masts and their main networks. However the antennas, spectrum and the core network will remain separate.

The operators say the new agreement with CityFibre will help to diversify their supply chain and help them cope with growing demands for mobile traffic by providing more capacity and faster speeds from mast to network. It is also possible that capacity afforded by dark fibre cables, which are unused until they are “lit up” by service providers, will allow the companies to test out new network technologies.

“With our customers’ data usage rising all the time, driven on by the rapidly growing adoption of 4G, a more flexible and cost effective backhaul capacity solution is hugely important so that we can keep giving a world-leading mobile experience,” says Fotis Karonis, Chief Technology Officer at EE. “This is a completely new model for the industry, set to provide a much-needed change to the economics of capacity management.”

New model for networks

“This agreement with CityFibre is the latest step in our efforts to give customers a great network experience,” adds Bryn Jones, Chief Technology Officer at Three. The ability to add our own high capacity infrastructure will be hugely important for our network, particularly in busy metropolitan areas.”

CityFibre is building networks in Aberdeen, Coventry, Peterborough, West Yorkshire and York, the latter of which is forming the basis for a joint-venture between the company, Sky and TalkTalk in a bid to challenge BT’s fibre dominance.

It is possible the model could be expanded if it is a success, with CityFibre raising £30 million to build 20 FTTP networks across the UK. CityFibre is also providing fibre to local authorities over the government’s Public Services Network (PSN) after agreeing a deal with managed services provider EasyNet.

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