Fibre broadband is widely acknowledged as being essential for the future success of all leading economies. There is strong evidence – including research commissioned by the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom – which shows a strong, positive, relationship between broadband speed and economic growth. In the next few years fibre enabled countries are likely to see the fastest growth in GDP, and they will have a competitive edge when it comes to attracting new businesses. Manx Telecom began investing in fibre in early 2018 to keep the Island ahead of the curve. By the end of 2019 more than 20% of Isle of Man homes and businesses will have access to FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) services. That means coverage here is approximately two and a half times better than in the UK where (according to the most recent Ofcom statistics) only eight per cent of homes and business have access to fibre.
In this interview Sutha Siva, Manx Telecom’s Chief Operating Officer, explains how the Isle of Man’s premier communications company is leading the drive to keep the Island in the technology fast lane.
Why is fibre availability so important to the Isle of Man’s future as an international business centre?
Fibre is now the standard that’s expected by businesses in all leading economies because providing a fibre optic cable right into the premises creates a superior broadband infrastructure that won’t be surpassed by other technologies in the foreseeable future. Businesses in the vast majority of sectors of the Isle of Man’s economy want fibre, and when we talk to international businesses that are considering setting up here, fibre availability is often at the top of the list of priorities. Without fibre, the Isle of Man would be at a serious disadvantage compared to rival jurisdictions. Manx Telecom has always been committed to investing in infrastructure to ensure that businesses have access to technology which gives them a competitive advantage. For many years the Isle of Man has been ahead of the UK in terms of average broadband speeds, but we knew long ago that fibre was essential – that’s why we began our roll-out nearly two years ago in early 2018. We’re proud to announce that by the end of 2019 more than 20% of the Island’s premises will have access to fibre.
What advantages will fibre deliver to businesses here on the Island?
Businesses that become early adopters can gain many advantages. That can be from improving efficiency because fibre speeds up all online tasks, or by providing better customer experience – for example, hotels and other businesses in the visitor sector improving broadband experience for guests. Or, it can be by seizing ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) opportunities which fibre creates to bring new products and services to market. Fibre represents the dawn of a new era within which technological innovation can be paired with business innovation. We’re ready for the future and we’re determined that businesses in the Isle
of Man will be too. In the longer term fibre will also pave the way for 5G, the next generation of mobile technology which has the potential to create even more opportunities, especially for IoT applications.
Finally, is the roll-out of FTTP just a matter of installing more fibre cables?
No, far from it. Installing fibre cables is not an easy task in itself because it requires complex, time-consuming tasks to be carried out by experienced teams of technicians and engineers with highly-specialised skills. It requires a combination of arduous tasks such as laying cables in already congested underground ducts or drilling channels for new ducts, and technical precision with tasks such as splicing fibre optic cables. Our technicians and engineers are supported by colleagues who map out and plan the fibre roll-out to make it as efficient as possible – not an easy task when you consider that there are more than 40,000 homes and businesses on the Island in urban and isolated rural locations. Our fibre project touches all aspects of our business, but it’s led by a specialist team who spent two years acquiring the knowledge and skills required to do this work. That process is ongoing as we continue to invest in the training necessary to further improve the abilities of each team member. Our fibre specialists are among 300 Manx Telecom employees who are by far the biggest, most experienced, and highly skilled team of communications technology professionals on the Island. No other business can match our skills and experience in fibre technology – and that’s proven by the fact we have already demonstrated our ability to deliver fibre to nearly a quarter of the Island’s homes and businesses.