Hyperoptic Head of Business Services Darren Shenkin explains why the company is rolling out ‘stupidly fast’ broadband.
Hyperoptic is the UK’s resident rival to Google Fiber, promising 1 Gbps broadband connectivity. CBR sat down with Head of Business Services Darren Shenkin to find out more about the market.
CBR: What is the state of the UK’s broadband infrastructure?
The older infrastructure has been rolled out by BT. Before BT it was part-owned by the Post Office. The UK has copper infrastructure, which is copper cables that run across the entire country, all built up areas.
The problem with copper cabling is that it degrades in terms of speed over distance. So, if you’re very close to a BT Exchange, you can get fairly ok speeds. If you get further away, in both rural and urban areas, the speed goes down quite a lot.
If you live on the top of the exchange somewhere you could theoretically be getting 17 or 18 Mbps.
The upload speeds tend to be around 0.7 or 1 MB per second, so very slow upload speed.
BT started rolling out a new technology called fibre to the cabinet, where they replaced the copper cables from the exchange to the green cabinets you see on the road with fibre. This is great, and gets us part of the way there because you’re bringing fibre closer to the building. Fibre doesn’t degrade with distance because it’s light that sends over the fibre and it doesn’t slow down.
By bringing the speed closer to the house, you can now get up to 76 Mbps down and 19 Mbps up. We’re getting faster.
CBR: Where does Hyperoptic come into this?
The problem with all of this infrastructure, whether it is fibre to the cabinet or copper infrastructure is that it is based on a technology called GPON, which stands for Global Passive Optical Network. That is limited with a maximum capacity for download or upload.
The more people you have using that at any given time, the slower your speeds get. What you get at 3 o clock in the morning is going to be a lot faster than what you get at 7 o clock in the evening.
That’s the same with Virgin as well. They shout about their 152 Mbps download speed, one of the fastest in the UK. Actually, when you start using it, the contention on their network is so high that a lot of people struggle to get anywhere near that.
What we do is bypass that entire network. We bring fibre directly into a multi-tenanted building. Those buildings are residential, business or mixed. By bringing fibre directly into a building, we have removed any variable in terms of distance, so you will always get fast speeds.
We sell three very distinct products, two of which are differentiators in the market. The first product is an entry-level product, 20 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. Then we go up to our first differentiator product, which is 100 Mbps up and down. Our real differentiator is the 1 Gbps, which is symmetrical as well, up and down. So it’s stupidly fast.
CBR: Is this the only product to rival Google Fiber in the UK?
No-one else is doing a 1 Gbps symmetrical broadband service. You can get a leased line service, which might cost you in excess of £1000 per month, if you’re a business and you need a dedicated connection just for you. However, nobody is doing this on a broadband basis, where lots of people can take it.
[The Hyperoptic founders] have got a proven track record of bringing new technologies to the UK. I have to stress, it’s not a new technology for the world. We are quite far behind the rest of the advancements of other countries in the world. In 2011 we realised that there were other countries doing fibre solutions very similar to what we’re doing now. So we created Hyperoptic back in 2011.
CBR: Why are we so far behind?
I’m not sure I’ve got the official answer to that. I think there a number of factors that influenced it. I think the challenge in this country is that we’ve had a pretty good existing copper infrastructure that has lasted us for decades.
It’s only been from the mid to late 90s when the internet has started to kick off that we’ve seen that copper really isn’t good enough to keep up with where technology is going. I think people are realised that now, and the government is realising that.
BDUK has invested a lot of time and effort in rolling out superfast broadband, which is the fibre to the cabinet solution. We saw that as a good solution but not as fast as you can go. We’ve decided to go further, and rather than just stop at this limited fibre to the cabinet solution of 76 Mbps down and 19 up, we’ve decided to offer that premium differentiated product of 1 Gbps.
CBR: Huawei and Proximus recently trialled 1 Tbps in the core network. When will we get 1 Tbps in the access network (ie in the home)?
The way you have to look at it is ‘where are we in terms of technological advances and what do people actually need?’ It’s great to be able to say that you can have 1 Tbps in your home if you can roll that out in a mass production way.
If there aren’t services that can actually use that then it’s pointless rolling it out. Things always get faster; when you look back at the mid to late 90s when we were all using dial-up, 14K per second, and now we’re talking about 1 Gbps, things have really come along.
My personal view is that it’s not going to be in my lifetime that we’re going to see 1 Tbps going out to individual homes. 1 Gbps is here and now and available. With that technology, applications will definitely follow suit in terms of being able to utilise that speed.