Cityfibre and toob sign a mutual agreement for access to the Full Fiber network in the United Kingdom

Alternative network builders Cityfibre and toob today signed a unique network access agreement, which will enable both parties to leverage their respective Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network deployments at respective gigabit capacity across the UK.

Just to recap. Toob is currently aiming to cover 1 million premises in the south of England by 2027 with its full fiber optic network – they are already rolling out in several towns in Surrey and Hampshire. By comparison, Cityfibre aims to cover 8 million premises – in around 285 towns and cities (around 30% of the UK) – by the end of 2025 (here).

Until now, the two operators would have been considered competitive rivals in the altnet space, but all that has just changed. The new deal will see toob expand its successful retail broadband packages across Cityfibre’s nationwide footprint, starting in Portsmouth today, before moving into adjacent areas for its own rollouts.

In addition to this, the operators also agreed ‘Heads of terms‘ for a wholesale aggregation partnershipwhich will see toob’s current and future network builds integrated into Cityibre’s “Ready for Service” (RFS) footprint (i.e. ISPs on Cityfibre’s network will have access to toob’s network patch) .

In theory, this should result in better overall coverage, as the two will no longer need to compete via overbuilding and can instead spend on deployments in areas where they are not rivals – each side will now benefit from such an expansion.

CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch said:

“We are delighted to welcome toob as a service provider partner on our networks. They’ve had great success driving adoption of their services and we look forward to helping them expand their exciting service offering to millions of new homes across our network.

This agreement also represents the UK’s first major partnership between infrastructure builders, establishing a new wholesale aggregation model that dramatically accelerates and extends the addressable footprint available to our wholesale ISP partners. For smaller fiber optic network builders who currently only offer their own retail broadband services across their entire footprint, this also presents an opportunity to expand their retail offering, open up a revenue stream of profitable wholesale and maximize adoption on their network.

Nick Parbutt, CEO and Founder of toob, said:

“toob is thrilled to partner with CityFibre. Opening up our own network to other ISPs has been part of our strategy from the start, and the partnership with CityFibre gives ISPs access to the toob full fiber network. Likewise, expanding our highly successful brand and proposition in the region using CityFibre’s network provides a great opportunity to capitalize on our investment in the region, offer our proposition to more customers and ultimately of account, to develop the company.

The technical integration of the toob footprint should be completed by summer 2023 and will provide CityFibre ISP partners with access to over 100,000 homes in Southampton and Camberley where toob is already online. But toob said they remain committed to building a network of over a million premises across the south of England over the next 5 years, “all of which will be made available to CityFibre’s ISP partners at the same service levels as CityFibre’s own network.”

The announcement comes a year after we reported market speculation suggesting CityFibre was in talks with rival toob over a possible deal, although at the time it was unclear whether this would result in a bigger consolidation or something different. Obviously, it’s something different, and we can’t help but wonder if there might be more mutually beneficial agreements like this in the future.

However, this raises a question mark over whether toob will be able to sell its 900mbps plan for £25 a month in Cityfibre areas (£29 after 18 months) as this would appear to undermine many selling partners Cityfibre’s existing wholesale to retail end (prices of £35-£45 are more common for their retail gigabit tiers). We believe that toob may need new bundles for CF areas, either that or CF may lower their wholesale rates. We are questioning that now.

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