Google Ponders Building a Fibre Optic Broadband ISP Network in UK Cities

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By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | July 18th, 2014

Internet giant Google appears to be probing the British broadband market for a partner to help build their own 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, which is despite previously stating that they had no plans to ever take the Google Fibre service outside of the USA.

At present Google Fibre is only available to a number of cities in the United States, such as Austin (TX), Provo (UT) and Kansas City, and since earlier this year they’ve been exploring plans to expand out to reach a total of 34 cities across the country. But until now they’ve always resisted calls to expand into other countries, which is despite the UK being one of their biggest markets.

Never the less the UK looks set to see a lot more in the way of true fibre optic broadband networks popping up over the next few years, which is despite BT abandoning their original plans (here) to reach 2.5 million premises with a similar (albeit GPON based) 330Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network (this currently reaches around 150,000 premises passed).

But the reason for the country’s predicted growth is because many smaller operators, such has CityFibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear, have begun to expand their own FTTP/H networks and all appear to have big plans for the future. Meanwhile both TalkTalk and Sky Broadband are also working with CityFibre (here) on a related roll-out across three British cities and Sky even have their own independent trials of similar technology (here).

Suffice to say that years of regulatory frustrations and reliance upon BT’s slower copper / FTTC (up to 80Mbps) dominated infrastructure appears to now be fuelling a shift towards greater infrastructure independence in the market, although it remains to be seen how successful some of these bigger experiments will be over the longer term (e.g. CityFibre’s deal with Sky and TT). Indeed it may yet end up being the smaller players that produce the most economically sustainable models, time will tell.

However it’s against this backdrop that we learn how Google has allegedly already held “detailed talks” with CityFibre. Apparently Google sources have confirmed that talks were held, although the discussions broke down because of understandable concerns over a potential conflict with the ambitions of CityFibre’s other major partners, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk.

A Source told the Telegraph (here):

Google historically have always publicly said they would never build fibre outside the US. But in the background they are talking to people here in the UK and looking at projects. It makes sense; Britain is their biggest market outside the US.”

Unfortunately the search giant has said that we’re unlikely to see a British Google Fibre project being announced anytime soon and by the sounds of it they’re still hunting for a partner to help realise their ambitions (give them a call Hyperoptic). Surely by now BT must privately be starting to worry because, although none of these pose a significant threat today, in 5-10 years’ time the situation could be very different.. emphasis on the “could“.

As for a British Google Fibre service and what consumers might expect from it. Residents of Kansas City can get a “free” 5Mbps service on the operators network (although you still need to pay a $300 [£175] install fee), while the normal subscription packages start at $70 (£41) per month for a symmetric 1000Mbps connection with 1TB of cloud storage and you can add a TV service by paying $120 (£70) per month. Some of those services are a bit pricey for the low-cost UK market but then they are ultrafast.