Vale Communications Plan Full Fibre Rollout for 1.2 Million UK Premises

A seemingly new alternative network provider called Vale Communications Infrastructure (part of the Vale Group) has sprung up with a plan to deploy a new full fibre (10Gbps capable XGS-PON) broadband and wireless network, which is targeting coverage of 1.2 million premises passed – across 19 towns – by the end of 2025.

The plan was revealed as part of the company’s application for Code Powers from Ofcom. Such powers are typically sought to help speed-up deployments of new fibre and cut costs, not least by reducing the number of licenses needed for street works. The powers can also help with supporting access to run new fibre via Openreach’s (BT) existing cable ducts and poles (PIA), which is something VCI have indicated they may harness.

NOTE: CVI is based at the Time Technology Park, Blackburn Road, Simonstone, Lancashire, BB12 7TW.

Launching a new Altnet into an already overcrowded market, which is also under some strain due to high builds costs and high interest rates, is currently quite a risky endeavour. But a quick look at Vale’s code powers application and website suggests that they aren’t being phased by any of that.

Extract from Vale’s Code Powers Application

The Applicant plans to deploy an independent backhaul and local access networks using a combination of 10G-PON / XGPON and FWA technologies which have a lifespan of at least 25 years and provide high quality, resilient broadband services to businesses and consumers.

The capacity of the network allows for services to be sold to all premises the network passes, however, the capacity and the electronics can be upgraded to offer higher bandwidth, if necessary. The network is therefore future proof, as demand requires. The backhaul network will provide a resilient fibre optic ring connecting to Points of Presence (colocation) in Manchester, Liverpool, London, Leeds and Hull.

Additionally, as part of its ESG initiatives, the Applicant intends to partner with social housing associations to deliver free or subsidised broadband services to low-income households and promote digital inclusion and address the ‘Digital Divide’.

The Applicant is already in advanced discussions with a social housing provider to launch a pilot scheme providing free broadband services to 100 social housing properties in Greater Manchester area by May 2024. Subject to successful completion of the pilot, there are ambitions to extend the scheme to 6,000 residential social housing properties, allowing occupants to fully benefit from online services.

However, the figure of 1.2 million premises passed actually comes from their website, which appears to indicate that they’re already “live” in parts of three towns – Bolton, Bury and Oldham (there’s a clear initial focus on the North West of England). But at the time of writing we couldn’t find an availability checker on their website, or any package details, which would have helped us to verify this.

The sole Director of VCI, which was only incorporated on 1st November 2023, is named as David Allan Sharples, who appears to be an active Director of multiple other companies, including several within the ‘Vale Group’ – most of which were similarly setup between October 2023 and March 2024 (e.g. Vale Telecommunications Group Ltd, Vale Broadband Ltd, Vale Communications Group Plc and Vale Telecommunications Holdings Ltd.).

Suffice to say there’s still a lot we don’t know about the new player in town, but they appear to have big plans. Ofcom’s related consultation will run until 25th July 2024, but they rarely reject such applications once they’ve been made. Hopefully more details on Vale will surface in the future.

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