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  • Writer's picturePoint Topic

INCA Conference 2023

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

21 – 22 November 2023, National Conference Centre, Birmingham

INCA Conference underscores AltNets continue to challenge major players but highlights the difficulties of deepening brand awareness, portfolio diversification, and regulatory limitations.

This year’s event, held over two days at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham, celebrated the success of the AltNets in reaching 25% of all UK households and focussed on attracting customers onto these new networks and key strategies to accelerate the take-up to these networks. The conference heard from AltNet leaders who are successfully building local and regional challenger brands with high levels of consumer confidence and trust. With consolidation and restructuring within the sector being a hot topic as of late, conditions and prospects for wholesale service offers through third-party ISPs and value-added propositions were a key focus of this year’s conference.

With over 80 speakers covering a range of topics from policies to secure long-term benefits for broadband consumers, streamlining network builds, clarifying the wholesale journey, women in the industry, building a trusted brand, the One Touch Switching process along with competition and consolidation. This year, Point Topic’s Senior UK Analyst, Veronica Speiser was on the panel discussing Customer Perceptions and Awareness and what AltNets can do to improve customer engagement and awareness, and what steps can be taken to help drive take-up.

All panellists were in agreement that key issues hindering take-up of full fibre by consumers is the lack of understanding by consumers of the term ‘fibre’ (i.e. FTTC vs. FTTP), the unknown benefits in terms of stability and scalability of FTTP, and apathetic behavioural traits by subscribers such as, ‘if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it’, mentality. In March, Ofcom introduced its Tackling consumer confusion about broadband technology proposed guidelines for ISPs, which should promote future take-up for FTTP providers over the next several quarters.

Wholesale and reselling of FTTP services was a hot topic this year, as many ISPs having spent hundreds of millions of pounds on network deployments they are naturally looking for returns on these investments. Diversifying one’s network to include wholesale services seems logical in terms of securing future economic growth, however, there are issues that need to be considered.

Oliver Helm, CEO of Full Fibre and Andy Nash, Commercial Director at CityFibre, highlighted that the integration of IT Stacks by smaller wholesalers into larger ISP resellers' systems remains a key issue. At present, the technology is playing catch-up when trying to employ an efficient and multifaceted IT stack capable of serving resellers of all sizes. Until this technology develops we may be seeing only the early entry or wholesale-only players dominating this field.

Furthermore, the varying levels of service level agreements (SLAs) offered by ISPs create another set of obstacles for wholesalers when trying to integrate an IT Stack and put systems into place for the reseller.

When looking at smaller rural AltNets, one must question whether they would be locked out of the wholesale market altogether. After all, how would they compete in terms of pricing with larger players who can supply cheaper monthly costs? It seems unlikely that rural AltNet wholesalers would be able to offer sub-£20/month and free installation costs which is where the larger regional and national players are coming in at.

The conference was however a very positive reflection of the UK telecoms sector as a whole. The successful expansion of the telecoms market in recent years due to the proliferation of AltNet providers has created one of the most competitive and robust sectors in the UK. This year’s conference underscored the achievements of the digital sector whilst highlighting the importance of continued collaboration between the larger providers, AltNets and the government to reduce barriers and ensure a sustainable and competitive market.


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