British Fibre Networks targets UK greenfield FTTH market

Elfed Thomas, founder of H2O Networks (now CityFibre) and the i3 Group, has decided to try his luck one more time with British Fibre Networks, a new company that will aim to construct fiber to the home (FTTH) networks to new home developments in the UK. Thomas hopes to bring open access FTTH networks to more than 35% of new UK homes by 2021, after being acquitted on fraud charges in relation to the funding of H2O.

Elfed Thomas, founder of H2O Networks (now CityFibre) and the i3 Group, has decided to try his luck one more time with British Fibre Networks, a new company that will aim to construct fiber to the home (FTTH) networks to new home developments in the UK. Thomas hopes to bring open access FTTH networks to more than 35% of new UK homes by 2021, after being acquitted on fraud charges in relation to the funding of H2O.

The new company, based in Manchester, says it will work with real estate developers to offer an alternative to the broadband network installation services offered by Openreach, the access network business unit of BT. Such connections are likely to be based on copper rather than fiber, Thomas asserts.

"Choice and capacity to the customer is vital for a competitive platform. For too long, new homeowners and builders have been subject to a monopolistic offer, which is overpriced and never installed in time for when the customer moves in," Thomas said via a press release. "British Fibre Networks aims to address this and create a model that breaks up the monopoly of BT. Working with developers, we will deliver superior connectivity and choice to new homeowners, many of whom have previously been quoted extortionate prices for access to a patchwork copper/fiber network. It will add value for house builders, who can now offer a home with pure fiber connectivity and choice."

British Fibre Networks will offer what the press release described as "a pure fiber aggregator portal" in new homes that will enable a choice of fiber networks and internet service providers (ISPs).

Thomas comes to British Fibre Networks with history in fiber-optic network deployment (including the use of sewer systems as a home for fiber conduit) as well as scars from the H2O Networks experience. That company went into bankruptcy administration in April 2011 as one of its main backers, Total Asset Ltd., became the target of a Serious Fraud Office investigation into H2O's funding. The resulting charges led to four people being convicted of fraud in February 2017. Thomas was charged in relation to the scheme but was acquitted, leaving him free to start over with his current venture.

CityFibre bought the H2O Networks and related assets in the UK in 2011 (see "CityFibre plans to invest up to £500m in UK fiber rollout") and was not part of the fraud investigation. In addition to CityFibre, alternative UK FTTH-based network builder Hyperoptic could provide competition to the new venture.

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