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How innovation and altnets can come together to drive a gigabit future

Written by: Hayley Paterson

As the UK gears up for ultrafast broadband speeds to power forward a greater sense of connectedness, there is a growing section of the telecoms industry called altnets that can be key to ensuring the nation keeps on track towards its 2025 gigabit-capable targets.

But what are altnet providers and why is technology vital in helping them to continue to compete against the sector giants? Matt Harrison, our chief strategy and innovation officer, speaks to Top Business Tech to explore how altnets can play an important role in keeping Britain connected…

Technology has always invited disruptors to challenge ‘the way that things always are’ – that’s essentially the point of these types of firms. They thrive on going against the status quo and providing businesses and residents with another way of thinking in how they can make their lives better.

And while the telecoms industry can often be well-known for having giant players in its marketplace – such as BT and Virgin Media O2 – there is a new wave of new-model network providers that are making sure these large corporations continue to look over their shoulders in the race to keep everyone connected.

Called altnets, they are an exciting prospect for many because they’re able to swiftly deploy pure fibre, hybrid, and fixed wireless networks to cater for urban and rural areas – and all without a strand of copper in sight. They’re what is defined as a true challenger of traditional methods because they stand tall as an alternative network and are created
specifically to offer different ways to how mainstream broadband providers have
always done it.

And people are recognising this fact too with the number of altnets already competing with industry giants continuing to grow at an exponential rate – forecasts suggest they’ll gain over a million subscribers by 2025, which is, of course, the same year the Government has earmarked to deliver the UK’s gigabit-capable future.

And the reason for this success? Altnets have already shown they can future-proof the nation’s long-term digital infrastructure, providing residents and businesses with ultrafast full fibre solutions much quicker than the larger, more established incumbents.

It’s this type of innovation that people are gravitating towards and exactly why the Government and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have openly backed them, and why billions of private sector investment is being made to ensure they continue to improve the ways in which people stay connected.

However, as exciting as this success to date has been, it’s not simply down to the introduction of new-age firms when it comes to spearheading Britain’s gigabit-capable future. After all, it’s very difficult to build a network alone, so those prepared to challenge traditional methods with forward-thinking alternatives must, in some way or another, rely on the powers that technology brings.

In this instance, network service providers are the innovative and critical friend altnets need to progress. That’s because not only can their expertise help to determine which town they’ve targeted – for ultrafast broadband – will deliver the best return on investment but, armed with this data, these experts can forecast expected build costs, identify the required architecture, introduce equipment providers, and more.

It’s this level of collaboration, and the opening up of dialogue from the earliest opportunity, means each stage of a build project can be mapped out and analysed effectively. Having subject matter experts utilising technology effectively not only helps to deliver greater value but, in this instance, it can drive forward a connectivity roll out that’s swift, cost-effective, and smooth.

Innovation has a vital role in the gigabit-capable future, as do the specialists within the telecoms industry. If both can continue to help altnets come together and fight the industry’s behemoths, the power of many smaller voices will continue to unsettle the might of ‘the big boys’. And this is why the sector is such an exciting place right now.


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