Broadband ISP Zen Internet has revealed how they hope to unbundle a total of 700 exchanges from BT by 2021, which should enable their own network to cater for more than 80% of the UK with a total core capacity of 5Tbps (Terabits per second); before potentially rising to 987 exchanges by around 2025 (25Tbps core network).
At present the Rochdale-based provider has already invested many millions into building their own network of local exchange PoPs (Points of Presence) / Ethernet nodes, which has given them more flexibility to offer a better range of products and prices to both small businesses and residential consumers alike.
The result is that their own infrastructure now reaches 400 exchanges, which is roughly akin to around 55% coverage for their Openreach based “fibre” products (FTTC/P, G.fast etc.). We should add that 275 of those exchanges can also offer Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) style services (note: the ISP’s two main core sites are located in London and Manchester).
A further 50 or so exchanges are also about to be unbundled and that should take their coverage to over 65%, although the provider’s Lead Engineer, Richard Shaw, told UKNOF this week (see slides) that they still have a lot of areas to enhance (e.g. scaling can be difficult, as is mixing different traffic types and on the current network there’s no ability to use multiple backhauls from exchange to balance traffic etc.).
Future upgrades and new network architecture are planned to tackle issues like those mentioned above, as well as the “significant jump in core and aggregation bandwidth” (inc. edge, transit and BNG capacity) that they expect to see over the next few years.
Generally Zen, which is home to 126,000 UK broadband customers, has made no secret (here) of their desire to become a £100m business within 3 years and a £250m one within 10 years. In keeping with that they recently revealed (here) their plan to add another 83 jobs in the next year (as of Feb 2019 they employed about 490 staff and are opening a new office in Leeds).
The company last reported an annual turnover of £71m (up 11% on last year), with operating profit of £3m (up 55%) and EBITDA of £6m (up 19%) to the end of September 2018. In short, they’re going in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how they handle the rise in alternative “full fibre” network operators over the next 10 years.
Zen’s Current Exchange Coverage (2019)