Hyperoptic: Hypercool or Hyperbole?

Uk_dpUK company Hyperoptic announced yesterday that its FTTH first customers were going live in Wandsworth, London, in a 133 flat estate called Price's Court. The UK tech press gave the announcement some coverage today, though not a huge amount, it seems. Not surprising considering the current size of the footprint. 

So, is it worth me blogging about it if it's just for 133 potential customers? I think so, for two reasons: first, because every journey needs a first step and the small size of this first step actually tells me much about the strategy that Hyperoptic intends to adopt; second because Hyperoptic is a recent newcomer to the Gigabit game, and even though we would not have featured them in our recently released report on the topic (The Gigabit Race is On!) where we only examined companies with over 100k homes passed, it's interesting for me to watch them develop.

What we know or what we can infer about their strategy so far is: 

  • they're only targeting multi-dwelling units;
  • they don't intend to own any access fiber infrastructure, they will lease it from BT, Geo or others;
  • they want to market that gigabit capability for all its worth;
  • they seem to be signing property developers and/or residents associations as customers, but it's unclear whether Price's Court is greenfield or brownfield;
  • they won't be offering uncontended 1 Gb/s service (the contrary would have been surprising)

What we don't know is: 

  • who owns the in-building infrastructure that is deployed;
  • what technology are they using in-building (CAT6 or Fiber);
  • who pays for what in the deployment;
  • how much funding do they have and/or need.

I had originally pegged them as a HKBN lookalike, but the fact that they don't intend to deploy infrastructure of their own actually makes them more comparable to Bredbands Bolaget. The model is interesting and has proven successful in Sweden, to a degree. The real things to follow in the coming months will be take-up in buildings connected and capacity to deploy fast (a combination of funding and ability to sign-up buildings).

And of course, a big questionmark will be BT's response, if any. It's unlikely that BT will even give Hyperoptic the time of day unless they start sweeping the capital with building wins and customers joining. Should that happen, then the issue for BT will become staggeringly complex since the most profitable customers will likely have gone over already.

We're not there yet, but this is definitely worth watching.