SSE Enterprise Telecoms targets UK dark fiber demand

UK connectivity services provider SSE Enterprise Telecoms, part of Scottish energy company SSE plc, will use XTM Series platforms from Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN) to expand its fiber-optic network footprint, the two companies announced today. The fiber infrastructure expansion aims to create what the companies called a “dark fiber-like” network to meet the demand for such services as discussed within UK regulator Ofcom’s Dark Fibre Access program as well as a “UK Digital Strategy 2017” policy paper the UK Government’s released in March 2017. Among the tenets of the latter was improved connectivity options for businesses: “This means ensuring that businesses are at the forefront of future broadband roll-out, including full fibre,” according to the document.

UK connectivity services provider SSE Enterprise Telecoms, part of Scottish energy company SSE plc, will use XTM Series platforms from Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN) to expand its fiber-optic network footprint, the two companies announced today. The fiber infrastructure expansion aims to create what the companies called a “dark fiber-like” network to meet the demand for such services as discussed within UK regulator Ofcom’s Dark Fibre Access program as well as a “UK Digital Strategy 2017” policy paper the UK Government’s released in March 2017. Among the tenets of the latter was improved connectivity options for businesses: “This means ensuring that businesses are at the forefront of future broadband roll-out, including full fibre,” according to the document.

Ofcom has taken several steps to force Openreach, BT’s access network infrastructure business unit, to provide alternative service providers with better access to BT’s network (see, most recently, "Ofcom offers rules to encourage UK fiber to the home deployments"). This includes changing the way Openreach operates (see “Openreach to separate from BT”). One thing it decided not to do (after a bit of back and forth) is to include dark fiber among the infrastructure offerings it wants BT to open up (see this statement Ofcom issued April 12, 2018, for explanation).

With dark fiber from BT perhaps not as readily accessible as some operators and other potential customers might want, SSE Enterprise Telecoms plans to establish itself as an alternative source via its new network infrastructure initiative. The roll out is underway, according to Jon Baldry, metro marketing director at Infinera, and will build off of SSE’s existing fiber network to connect major data centers and BT exchanges. SSE’s current infrastructure includes 13,700 km of fiber-optic network and 15 data centers across the UK. The press release announcing the footprint expansion program implies SSE hopes to increase its connected data center count to more than 80.

The new network will offer links up to 100 Gbps, leveraging Layer 2 and Layer 1 400G-capable flexponder cards Infinera unveiled for the XTM Series last year, Baldry said (see "Infinera XTM II upgrades target evolving metro edge networks").

“We’re working with Infinera because they have an elegant product set that scales effectively, and a unique approach to Layer 1 and 2 connectivity,” explained Conrad Mallon, chief technical architect at SSE Enterprise Telecoms, via the joint announcement. “A network project on this scale makes us one of the few providers that can offer multiples of 100-Gbps services between exchanges, commercial data centers, and across our core, at an accessible price point. The network expansion deal is also paving the way for our ambitious roadmap which will see SSE Enterprise Telecoms investing more in network reach over the next five years.”

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