From Startup to Powerhouse: YouFibre's Drive to Revolutionize UK's ISP Scene
Most people think of their ISP as just another utility that comes into their homes. As long as it works, they keep paying their bills, and if something goes wrong, there’s nothing to stop them from switching to another provider.
At YouFibre, we’d like to change that. Our vision is to make our customers fall in love with their ISP, and our mission is to become the UK’s top provider. It’s a tall order for a young company. But we know that the way to achieve these goals is to offer our customers a trouble-free experience running business apps, surfing the web, gaming, or streaming their favourite Netflix shows and Spotify playlists.
A Young ISP on a Growth Trajectory
YouFibre provides fibre to the home (FTTH) in parts of the UK with our sister company, Netomnia, which puts fibre in the ground and installs Optical Network Terminals (ONTs) in homes. Netomnia’s 10 Gbps FTTH network is up to 10 times faster than the Openreach network currently used by the majority of UK ISPs, and YouFibre runs the residential broadband service over the top of the Netomnia infrastructure. One of our main areas of operation is Northeast England, but we believe we are the first of the new UK alt-nets to connect customers in all four countries of the UK.
As our Director of Networks, my job is to help make sure more customers go live every day to grow our network and that we keep the ones that we have, creating a feedback loop that fuels expansion and allows us to design new infrastructure to support an ever-increasing number of subscribers.
We take our mission and vision seriously, recognising we have to do better by customers than our competitors. The quality of our network is our value proposition. Our pledge is a high-speed, low-latency WAN for lag-free internet connectivity and a fast LAN within businesses and people’s homes to ensure no buffering when accessing online content.
When we first launched, we deployed dark fibre and grey optics to connect our deployments in the Northeast of England. That original 100G network was a solid short-term foundation, but it would not provide enough bandwidth for our customers as we grew. When we reached 70% capacity, we pre-emptively boosted our network to 400G with the potential to climb well beyond that per site to meet future demand. We did this without deploying additional powered devices in the network other than amplifiers.
We Are Mindful of Costs, But Want Performant Hardware
As a young company, we are mindful of costs and adopted white-box solutions from a selection of vendors to reduce our capital expenditures. However, 50% of our deployment is Cisco because the company offers a portfolio of performant devices that can scale to meet increased customer traffic and expert engineers who can help us design and equip our network.
The foundation of our 400G network in the North East is the Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS-540) converged access platform and Cisco routers that give us 400G-capable ports and increase density while lowering energy costs. This equipment allows us to leverage Cisco’s powerful IOS XR operating system to implement a long-term design that will scale to accommodate more subscribers and implement additional features as we grow. The Cisco NCS-540 features two QSFP-DD ports. We used these alongside Acacia 400G capable ZR+ QSFP-DD pluggable coherent modules to connect our network together in the North East and upgrade our backhaul bandwidth to 400Gbps without building a new WDM network.
Our partner, Enable, provided technical and design support that helped us make these hardware choices. With their in-depth knowledge of Cisco's platforms and technology, they were able to help us avoid potential risk to operations and ensure that the platforms selected were performant and cost effective. Leveraging their experience across multiple operators, we were able to select the correct platform without going through an expensive and time-consuming product selection process.
Incorporating Silicon One into Our Data Centre
One of the most exciting developments coming out of Cisco recently is the Cisco Silicon One chip. This new chip architecture revolutionises networking by increasing throughput while lowering power consumption. These custom chips feature System-on-Chip (SoC) designs that support full routing functionality on a single ASIC.
We have elected to use the Cisco 8200 series routers at our data centres, allowing us to scale up to 12.8 Tbps of bandwidth at each data centre. The router also allows us to reduce power consumption within the data centre whilst also saving space with its small form factor.
Planning Ahead to Keep Customers Connected
YouFibre completed the 400G upgrade of our Northeastern network in mid 2022. We raised the bandwidth profile in the region, allowing us to add more customers while keeping latency low and speed high. We are now looking at the next phase of our expansion.
In 12-18 months we plan to take the next step in the North East and upgrade the backhaul network there beyond 400G. We will also be deploying this same design into other parts of the UK where we are seeing similar increased customer demand.
In the next few months we’ll also complete the data centre migration to the Cisco 8200 series. We then plan to use a similar type of design to our North Eastern network to build a WDM layer for our core network allowing us to connect multiple 400G waves giving us a high capacity backbone between our core data centres.
From the beginning, YouFibre tried doing things differently by putting customers front and centre. Future-proofing our network is one way we’re working hard to do that. We guarantee our upload and download speeds. We then add our no in contract price increase promise, free expert-led installation and UK-based tech support to create a seamless customer experience. Rather than worrying about staying connected, we want our customers to enjoy everything the internet has to offer. And the more they love their internet, the more they’ll love their ISP.