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Prodapt aims to improve regional fibre choice with OpenFibreXchange launch

The firm hopes that its fibre aggregation solution can improve choice for customers and enable greater UK-wide connectivity

The Prodapt logo in red on a white background

Global technology consulting firm Prodapt has announced the launch of its OpenFibreXchange (OFX), which it hopes will boost the drive for high-speed connectivity across the UK.

OpenFibreXchange is a cloud-native and open source solution for fibre aggregation, which would allow internet service providers (ISPs) to utilise the networks of alternative network (alt-net) providers. In the UK, alt-net providers are typically defined as those operating their fibre networks outside of Openreach and Virgin, whose infrastructures dominate UK connectivity.

The company says investment and development of OFX began after alt-nets and incumbent operators expressed interest in such a system, in the interest of accelerating digital transformation and fibre rollout across the UK.

At present, fibre rollout in the UK is continuing at pace, with 19.3 million (66% of UK homes) able to access gigabit-capable broadband and 9.6 million homes (33% of UK homes) now able to access full fibre according to Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations report.

Despite this, many rural interest groups, such as Rural England CIC, have emphasised the digital divide that still exists between urban and rural communities throughout the UK. The group 5GRuralDorset has also expressed disappointment at what they see as an inadequate rollout.

“The notion that a rural community should be settling for just coverage, and not adequate connectivity speeds, is itself a shaky concept,” said Dave Happy, collaboration lead 5GRuralDorset.

“People often don’t think about the democratic deficit and the things you just have to do online. So you could say, staying alive is important and having that connectivity is a real boon because you’re able to get necessary things like Covid passes.”

Although several regional fibre operators are currently active in the UK, collaboration between their networks and those of ISPs is not always achieved. Those with the infrastructure to operate and lay their own networks, such as Virgin, have been regarded by some as stifling the market and preventing alt-nets from establishing successful networks of their own.

Earlier this year, telecommunications firm CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch argued against overbuilding that he credited companies such as Virgin with, stating that it would reduce competition in the market and therefore limit consumer choice. CityFibre is a private telco that operates its own full-fibre network used by ISPs across the UK, which aims to service 8 million homes and 800,000 businesses by 2025.

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“There’s been a weak duopoly in the UK’s fixed market, BT across everywhere and Virgin across half the country,” stated Mesch at Connected Britain 2022, the UK’s largest connectivity conference. 

“It has underinvested into fibre. The alternate fibre providers like CityFibre have sprung up and said we can build fibre at pace, and that has unlocked £20-30 billion of investment. Nothing I can think of would be better for the UK as a whole and for the businesses and citizens of the UK than to keep a flourishing, competitive infrastructure market.”

With greater interconnectivity between networks, enabled by fibre exchanges, customers might be given a greater number of ISPs to choose from, all using pre-established regional networks as opposed to laying their own.

“OpenFibreXchange will accelerate the time-to-market for ISPs to offer high-speed digital services across the country,” said Mukul Gupta, EVP and head fibre at Prodapt.

“The ISPs will be able to unlock the full potential of full-fibre in 80% reduced cycle time via OFX, which will bridge the gap between disparate process and tech stacks of regional fibre operators.”

Charlie Ruddy, the CEO of alt-net provider Digital Infrastructure, expressed support for Prodapt’s announcement.

“High-speed full fibre access is indispensable for the digital economy, and OpenFibreXchange can help accelerate the collaboration between ISPs & fibre operators at a national level in the UK,” he stated.

Prodapt, a member of the Indian Jhaver Group conglomerate, has a range of partners including telecoms operators, as well as industry giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

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