The jungle book

What do new building regulations mandating gigabit broadband mean for home builders?

Mikael Sandberg, Executive Chairman, VX fiberdiscusses proposed new building regulations to ensure new builds are equipped with gigabit broadband and what this means for homebuilders

High-speed Internet connectivity is no longer a luxury. It is an indispensable utility. The average UK adult spends more than 3.5 hours online each day, and according to a survey, half of UK adults say they ‘depend’ on this connection for banking, shopping and socializing. More than half admitted they couldn’t imagine going an entire day without being online. So whether a residential development is a new subdivision on the outskirts of town or an apartment development in the city center, it must be fully fiber ready. This will ensure that it meets the digital connectivity needs of occupants now and in the future.

Yet around one in ten homes are still built without a gigabit connection. In its quest for ubiquitous gigabit connectivity, the UK government has recognized this as a gap that it will need to fill. Especially if they are to achieve their target of covering at least 85% of UK premises by 2025 and the national target for 2030.

What are the benefits of gigabit broadband?

One such measure is the recent proposing new building regulations to ensure new builds have next-generation gigabit broadband as standard practice. Changes to the law will mean developers will be legally required to incorporate gigabit broadband into new homes in England and make it a priority as part of building work. They will also need to involve broadband operators to consider the installation of gigabit broadband when construction plans are submitted to local councils. These measures will allow more people to access scalable internet connections and reduce the need for costly and disruptive work to retrofit homes.

The benefits for residents are obvious. They won’t have to worry about being locked down in a property for the next decade, resulting in frozen Zoom calls from the home office or buffering Friday night Netflix finds. For the Government, this is an important step in bringing the UK up to speed and bouncing back from the economic impact of Covid-19 as the nationwide rollout of world-class broadband accelerates.

How can homebuilders deploy fiber to the premises?

But for developers and homebuilders, they’d be forgiven for feeling a little roughed up. The government provides financial support and network operators make it cheaper and easier for developers to deploy fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). But, many still argue that deploying such broadband services can become prohibitively expensive, especially in remote rural areas, due to the lack of gigabit-enabled networks nearby.

The solution is for builders and developers to partner with a specialist in digital infrastructure. A digital infrastructure specialist will work closely with a developer and/or home builder to create a bespoke network that can be tailored to specific needs or circumstances. Partnering with a trusted specialist early on can simplify the process by ensuring that connectivity and technology infrastructure are part of the design, planning and construction process. Consider these key areas as a starting point:

Connectivity should be built in from the start

While installing networks will be just one of many priorities, finding a digital infrastructure specialist early on is essential, to ensure that a new build development can be effectively equipped with a gigabit connectivity. Initial conversations can inform a strategy that ensures the home design assesses network requirements and can include additional connectivity considerations. It could also avoid costly problems down the road.

There are many ways to provide connectivity to future tenants. For example, developers can create and manage their own network or allow tenants to use their own vendors. VX Fiber, for example, uses an open access model to leverage the full fiber infrastructure and engage third-party service providers to provide services to the owner or tenant.

What is “open access”?

“Open Access” generally means access granted to multiple Service Providers on a wholesale basis over a physical network infrastructure. This allows service providers to reach the subscriber without the need to deploy a new fiber access network themselves. Developers are then free to monetize the resulting service for the benefit of their landlords and tenants. All products and services are made available to subscribers via a web portal through carefully selected service provider partners, making it easy to sell, provision and maintain the network with minimal system administration.

In this option, physical conduit and fiber are used like real estate, but developers don’t need to learn to be service providers. Each option will require different time, investment and learning. It is worth discussing this with a specialist or finding out which option will be best for the specific development.

Many parties are involved in deploying and implementing all-fiber networks, and in many cases multiple stakeholders need to be involved. After meeting with the digital infrastructure specialist, it is important to develop a plan that includes the decided route and how the homebuilder will achieve it.

New building regulations will require developers to submit a ‘connectivity plan’

In fact, the new building regulations will require the developer to submit a ‘connectivity plan’ with full planning applications, initial notices or change notices provided to the local authority. Having a clear vision that can be easily conveyed to all stakeholders ensures that the process runs smoothly.

Owners can no longer afford technology to be great only when it works. The public needs homes with technology that still works, and home builders need the right technical support to deliver those homes. Although the task may seem daunting, the key to success is not to hesitate when it comes to finding the right digital infrastructure partner.