Portsmouth-based UK ISP toob, which was setup by several of Vodafone’s former directors (here) and has attracted investment of £75m (here), is officially starting the rollout of their 900Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband network in Southampton, despite Virgin Media’s threat to “keep them out of our city.”
The new provider has a longer term ambition to expand their “full fibre” network to pass more than 1 million homes and business over the next 10 years (focused on Southern England), although initially the plan is to start their rollout around the central part of Southampton (Hampshire) before reaching the rest of the city by the end of 2021 (the target is to have 100,000 premises covered by 2021 – possibly including other parts of the UK).
A quick look at the local street works plan confirms that the SSE linked company Neoscorp Ltd will be conducting the civil engineering work for toob in Southampton and the bulk of this looks set to begin on Thursday (12th September 2019). The initial rollout area was subject to a major engineering survey by toob a couple of months ago.
The Southampton rollout itself is expected to cost around £50m and the first customers could be connecting to toob’s network by the end of 2019. At present the only package that we know about will give you unlimited usage and 900Mbps+ (average) symmetric speeds for just £25 inc. VAT per month on an 18 month contract term (there’s no mention of an installation charge or included router yet).
Nick Parbutt, CEO of toob, said (Daily Echo):
“This is another great step in bringing the benefits of full fibre connectivity to Southampton. It is fantastic to see our network working and delivering the speeds and performance that we expect.
We are very excited about the next steps as we start to deploy the network and start connecting customers to Toob’s hyperspeed broadband.”
However toob is by no means the only Gigabit broadband player in Southampton. Cable giant Virgin Media has similarly announced that the central south coast city will be the first in the UK to benefit from their DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrade, which with the snap of their fingers will make a 1Gbps (50Mbps upload) speed package available across the entire city by the end of 2019 (here).
Virgin has a huge advantage here as an established player and a major Pay TV provider, although they won’t be able to match toob for upload speeds and the new ISP is clearly looking to go very aggressive on pricing. Nevertheless the CEO of Virgin Media, Lutz Schüler, recently warned that he intended to “fight back” against smaller alternative network providers and “will use everything to keep them out of our city” (here).
Southampton is of course an urban area and thus aggressive competition is to be expected, which is why choosing such locations can be such a risk for newer entrants. In fact it’s almost enough to make us forget that Openreach (BT) are even in the game, although at present their main “ultrafast broadband” technology in the city is the inferior hybrid fibre G.fast solution.
We should add that Hyperoptic also has some 1Gbps FTTP/B in the city, albeit mostly focused upon larger apartment blocks, and Virgin Media’s warning was arguably aimed just as much at them as toob. In theory there should be enough space in dense urban areas for three or more such providers to co-exist and this is about to be tested.