At MS3 Networks (MS3), we see and hear many comments regarding our full fibre roll out. Whilst it is not always practical to get involved in every social media discussion, we thought it would be useful to have a single location where we can answer some of the questions that come up and help clear up any misinformation.
Our hope is that this page will be updated regularly as we respond to comments and questions we see online and in our discussions with members of the community.
Do MS3 want to share other operator’s existing infrastructure?
Sharing is always our preferred method of deploying networks and it might be a surprise to learn that we have more fibre-ready homes in areas where we have used other operators’ infrastructure than where we have had to build our own ducts and poles. Below is a table showing our homes covered in each of our build areas where we have been able to share infrastructure:
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to reach commercial terms which are acceptable to us with KCOM to use its extensive pole and duct network at scale in non-Openreach areas.
We have recently (February 2024) supported a new initiative with KCOM to encourage sharing on a more formal basis and are keen to see this be approved swiftly.
Do MS3 approach KCOM every time it wants to build to try and share their infrastructure?
In the last year, we’ve built our network at scale, passing around 10,000 additional homes and businesses each month in multiple locations. In areas with BT Openreach ducts and poles, this can be achieved with a simple, regulated system that means we just need to notify them of where we are working, what we have done and when we finish.
The situation with KCOM is very different to that of BT Openreach, and until now, all of our requests to share KCOM’s infrastructure has been using the legal framework in the Access to Infrastructure Regulations (ATI). This framework is not really designed for scale and for that reason we don’t file a request each time.
We have reviewed the outcomes of the requests we have made and from a commercial perspective it does not currently cost in for MS3 to use the KCOM infrastructure. Where we can, we will also consider using local council owned infrastructure to reduce disruption.
Why doesn’t MS3 publish the price that KCOM wants to charge to share its infrastructure?
We would love to, and we have taken legal advice on whether we can. Lawyers have reviewed our confidentiality clause within our ATI applications with KCOM, that we have to sign before obtaining pricing and their advice is that we may open ourselves up to being sued if we were to breach it. We have nothing to hide however and will happily publish any and all correspondence with KCOM in regard to sharing, it is up to them to allow us to do this.
Does MS3 intend to report KCOM to Ofcom?
We do get asked this a lot but to be clear, we do not believe that KCOM has broken any rules that would constitute a breach of Ofcom guidelines and even if we did, we would always go through the KCOM complaints and escalation process first.
Again, the confidentiality agreement prevents us from being explicit about how we make commercial decisions and all we can say is that in BT Openreach areas, we believe it is commercially viable to its share infrastructure; in KCOM areas, we have made the decision that it is not commercially viable for us to share.
That leaves us with a decision to make. Do we give up in the KCOM area or do we build our own network, sharing BT Openreach and others where available? Without competition we may continue to see prices in our area higher than anywhere else in the country. We made the decision to build and have created the first scale competitor to KCOM in 100 years. We have saved the residents of Hull and The East Riding of Yorkshire over £1m in the last 12 months through more competitive broadband packages.
Would MS3 be open to sharing poles with other operators, rather than each operator in the area putting its own up?
We would be very happy to discuss this with other operators but we go one better than this by offering a wholesale service for our fibre which means others do not need to build their own infrastructure.
In the meeting with David Davis MP on the 15th of January 2024, a subsequent meeting was called with both KCOM and Connexin, to discuss infrastructure sharing, why did MS3 not attend this meeting?
The meeting between KCOM and Connexin was between them and was related to a recent request for Connexin to share KCOM’s infrastructure and did not concern MS3. MS3 would not be involved in negotiations between these two companies.
Does MS3 receive money every time it puts up a pole?
Absolutely not. MS3 is privately owned and receives no subsidies from government, local authorities, or any other public body. There are other alternative network builders (AltNets) who do get some subsidiary from government funded schemes such as Gigabit Britain, but these tend to be building in rural areas, where broadband is very poor quality, and it is not commercially viable for companies to build solely with private money.
We don’t make money from renting out poles. Our business model is providing fibre connections to homes and businesses, and we charge a fixed monthly rental to our partners for this service. This price is the same whether some of the fibre route traverses our own ducts and poles or a third party’s duct. The advantage of our wholesale-only approach is that 35+ providers can supply end users with fibre broadband services without installing any additional outside infrastructure. Typically, they supply new in-home equipment e.g. a router and the rest is provided by us. End users can move between any of our resellers at end of contract without any need to change equipment.
We think this works out far better in the long term than multiple companies building networks and offering only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) who you can buy from, as this inevitably leads to even more duplicate infrastructure being built. We offer our service to all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) without limitation, so those also building infrastructure could instead choose to buy wholesale fibre from us, as some already do.
Does MS3 receive government funding? BDUK, Local Authorities or similar?
MS3 is privately funded and receives no government funding. We have no immediate plans to change this strategy.
Why did MS3 state in 2022 that it would build an underground network in Hedon then decide to use telecommunication poles instead?
Network builders design in stages, with each one adding more detail. Our high-level designs indicated that we were most likely to install our infrastructure in Hedon underground and we told the town council this in 2022. After further designs and the increased costs we all experienced with the economic uncertainties of the last two years, it was not financially viable to continue deploying our network in many areas using an underground method.
Telegraph poles are a common sight around the UK. KCOM made the same decision to deploy much of Hedon using poles originally and previously stated that 70% of its fibre network is delivered by poles. Openreach has 4.1 million poles around the country, and these are not restricted to rural areas.
In many instances, poles are welcome instead of new underground deployment because the installation of such poles is less disruptive with no need to dig up and resurface roads and pavements, no damage to tree roots and it is quicker to connect customers.
If MS3 were to cease trading, what would happen to the telecommunication poles already installed?
All fibre network builders must comply with the provisions of the Electronic Communications Code 2003 “(The Code”) and under regulation 16 (Funds for liabilities)– operators need to show the regulator, Ofcom, that they have set aside monies to cover any costs of removing infrastructure should that company not be around to remove such infrastructure itself.
The chances of this happening are minimal however as MS3 has already invested £100million in building fibre networks in Hull and elsewhere which provides significant long-term value.
How does MS3 work with residents when installing poles and how can they object if they oppose them?
We follow the Cabinet Siting and Pole Siting Code of Practice and that states that we should give 28 days’ notice before a pole is installed. We put up notices on lampposts and during that 28-day period giving our details so that residents have an opportunity to contact us.
That gives residents a chance to tell us information that we did not know when we made our network design plans which may change the location, for example if there is a resident who has additional access needs due to disability.
For an objection to be valid it needs to be recognised under the relevant legislation including the Code. Not wanting a pole outside your house is not a recognised reason to object under the legislation.
The residents in my street do not want to buy from MS3, how does this business model work?
We do not expect everyone to buy our services. We are here to provide competition and provide choice. If residents choose to stay with their current service provision, that is fine.
It is worth noting that our fibre network is built to last a century or more and a lot will change in that time. We build for the people who want our service now and for future generations who may want the choice. Whilst we offer services up to 1,000Mb now, the actual equipment we install can provide 10 times that speed, ensuring capacity for whatever demands are placed on the internet in the future.
With some of the noise out there you may not realise how much demand there is for our service in the area – we are looking forward to connecting our 10,000th home in the Hull area very soon, less than two years since we started building our network. This will continue to grow as we complete more areas.
It is therefore inaccurate and untrue to cite that nobody wants our service. We are future proofing communities and those who rely on high-speed internet for employability, education, and digital inclusion.
Hull has been used to a single broadband provider for too long – our approach ensures the process will be competitive once competition arrives.
You said you would engage with the community in my area, why haven't you?
The safety of our staff and contractors is paramount and something which we take very seriously and assess on a regular basis.
During some engagement events coordinated in the past, our staff reported that they felt threatened and intimidated. This is not a safe environment for our colleagues, or a safe and productive environment for those residents who attended to hear more about MS3 and our services.
In addition to the events, our colleagues began to receive malicious and threatening emails, plus some received messages on their private social media accounts, and we had colleagues being followed to their parked vehicles.
Following these incidents, we met with Humberside police who recommended we stopped engagement in these areas. Unfortunately, this meant we were unable to do what we do elsewhere and take time explaining our activity to residents face to face, and collaborating on positive ways we could support the wider community. We understand however, that it may seem unfair that the actions of a few people in a specific area has meant a halt to these engagement activities. As such we welcome contact from residents living in these areas who wish to understand our infrastructure rollout. Our telephone number for anyone who may have questions can be found on the contact page or if you would prefer to email you can contact us at email@example.com.
Health and Safety
Why is it that sometimes MS3’s traffic management company use stop go signs, and at other times they don’t?
We are permitted to change the conditions onsite in respect of traffic management (TM) if and when the need arises. This is usually in the way of a downgrade in the conditions and a level of flexibility is permitted within the Code under which we operate. In most cases, the highest level of TM is added to the permits then assessed on a case-by-case basis taking current traffic conditions into consideration.
The Local Authority usually does not require us to notify it on each of these downgrades, as once our workers are on site, a change in TM may be determined which is quite normal. The variation does not show on the One.Network site where many residents look at the permit requirements. This may lead some to incorrectly conclude we are operating out of the conditions of the permit.
Why is MS3 causing other utility strikes?
Utility strikes (causing damage to third party infrastructure when installing your own infrastructure) is always unfortunate but on a rare occasion is a by-product of street works. It is estimated that there are around 60,000 utility strikes per year in the UK and the government is working on schemes to try and reduce this number.
We do use scanners to give us a better indication of what is under the ground, but these are not always reliable. A recent study conducted by The University of Birmingham, showed that 52% of strikes occurred when the third-party infrastructure had been detected and 48% failed to detect.
The most common reason for a strike is not related to testing but to the location and depth of burial of the third-party infrastructure hit. Local authorities and other bodies recommend the depth at which various utilities should bury their respective infrastructure – unfortunately mapping is not particularly accurate UK wide.
As soon as these strikes happen, the works are immediately halted; we report them and quickly assess for health and safety impacts. We normally incur the costs of repair from the impacted party for these strikes and we are therefore heavily incentivised to reduce them as much as possible. After every strike, we perform a full internal investigation to see if we could have prevented it and if changes to our processes and procedures are required.
Is MS3 authorised to use creosote on telecommunication poles when this is a banned substance in the UK?
Like many chemicals, creosote is banned in the UK for domestic use but is still widely used in industry nationally. Users must have had appropriate Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations training to ensure safe handling.
Whilst creosote is used on most telegraph poles around the UK, as part of our voluntary environmental commitments we are moving to a 100% non-creosote substitute in the near future, Copper Salt Poles, which will be used in the deployment once the existing creosote stock has been depleted.
What’s next for MS3 once the network is built?
Our focus is on providing an alternative, wholesale only service to the Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire areas and supporting residents and businesses to access our network. We work hard in the local areas and support many charities and community initiatives. We are also very focused on bridging the digital divide and ensuring that fast reliable broadband is accessible for all and is in line with their household budget and bandwidth needs.
Does MS3 have any final words?
MS3 exists to provide choice of broadband providers and bandwidth where there has never been choice. With building a telecoms network there's always going to be disruption, we want to minimise it and we will work with all reasonable requests to do so. However, bringing cheaper broadband to a city with the lowest fixed line take up in the UK is our number one priority.