Home5G & BeyondNeos Networks emerges as preferred bidder for Network Rail’s fibre upgrade

    Neos Networks emerges as preferred bidder for Network Rail’s fibre upgrade


    New fibre infra is promoted as a fix for everything from gaps in 5G coverage to better value for taxpayers

    Neos Networks announced it has been selected as preferred bidder for Network Rail’s Project Reach. This is an initiative to update and upgrade the railway’s communications infrastructure, much of which is still copper based, and make the railway safer, more modern and create a “digitally connected rail network”.

    Last year Neo, bidding alongside Cellnex, and Virgin Media with bidding partners Nokia and Jacobs, received approval to bid for the 16,000km (about 10,000 miles) of cabling that runs alongside Network Rail’s tracks. The estimated value was £1 billion.

    This privatisation plan to upgrade the trackside cable infrastructure plus build 250 mobile masts to help erradicate 5G ‘notspots’ for commuters, was was unveiled by Network Rail in 2021.

    So the plan is to improve the infrastructure for the railway which in turn promises to enhance safety and efficiency, improve communications for passengers onboard trains and in stations, while helping the winning bidder to extends its own footprint. The privatisation of the infrastructure will contribute to the indebted Network Rail’s coffers.

    The deal for Neos

    As Network Rail’s exclusive infrastructure provider, Neos will invest in the design and build of a new fibre optic communications network track side, providing up to 16,000km of fibre alongside the railway lines. The network will be used to carry essential information for running the railways, such as signalling, sensors, CCTV and high-speed broadband for trains, railway depots and offices.

    Earlier this year, Network Rail announced it was in exclusive discussions to enter a long-term partnership to upgrade its ageing telecoms infrastructure. The deal “will result in significant savings for the taxpayer and bring improved performance, safety and connectivity benefits for railway passengers,” apparently.

    Neos Networks says it owns one of the fastest growing, wholesale fibre networks in the UK, spanning 34,000km and 550 exchanges. It will work in partnership with an as yet unnamed tower company looking to leverage its 4G and 5G network infrastructure, with the objective of offering end-to-end fixed and mobile connectivity to Network Rail.

    This project will enable Neos Networks to expand its national footprint and improve access to high capacity services. These services will benefit customers including enterprises, hyperscalers and service providers, as well as mobile network operators looking to enable 4G and 5G connectivity along the rail corridor.

    Neo says the new network could advance the roll-out of FTTP across Britain by improving infrastructure access for alternative network providers, while bridging the UK’s digital divide and rural connectivity conundrum.

    Colin Sempill, CEO at Neos Networks said, “This new network will deliver a step-change in connectivity and available capacity, which, in turn will help to transform UK rail for the passengers and neighbouring communities it serves.

    “We look forward to working with Network Rail to finalise the contract and start mobilising this project which will see the creation of numerous jobs in different geographies. This is critical for us as we continue to support UK businesses and service providers with the high capacity connectivity services essential for innovation and help deliver on the government’s plans to improve the availability of high-quality broadband across the UK.”