KCOM Group Ltd.
KCOM
FormerlyKingston Communications (KC)
Company typePrivate limited company
LSEKCOM
IndustryTelecommunications
Founded1902 as part of Hull Corporation
floated as PLC 1999
HeadquartersKingston upon Hull, England, UK
ProductsRetail and Wholesale local and national telecommunications services,
Broadband and internet services and IT and Network Solutions, Mobile service (KCOM Mobile)
Revenue£262.8 million (2020/21)[citation needed]
Websitewww.kcomgroupltd.com

KCOM Group (formerly known as Kingston Communications and latterly KC) is a UK communications and IT services provider. Its headquarters are in the city of Kingston upon Hull, and it serves local residents and businesses with Internet and telephony services. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange but is now privately owned by Macquarie Group.

For historical reasons, the Hull area has no BT landlines, and the vast majority of residents and most businesses in Hull, Cottingham and Beverley are served only with telecoms services by KCOM.

History

On 22 August 1902, Hull Corporation (which later became Hull City Council) was granted a licence under the Telegraph Act 1899 to operate a municipal telephone system in the Kingston upon Hull area, opening its first telephone exchange on 28 November 1904 at the former Trippett Street Baths.[1]

A Hull K6 white telephone box

At the time, there were a number of such municipal telephone companies around the UK, all of which – with the exception of the one in Hull – were gradually absorbed into the Post Office Telephone department, which later became British Telecom (BT). Hull's bid to renew its licence in 1914 was made conditional on the £192,000 purchase of the National Telephone Company infrastructure in the city. The council gave its approval, securing the future of the country's only remaining municipally owned telephone corporation.[1]

The first rotary automatic exchange opened in 1922, and from 1934 Strowger exchanges were installed. Rotary and Strowger exchanges were operated to 1975 and 1988 respectively, and two crossbar exchanges to 1989, when the network became fully digital.[2]

Hull has therefore remained an exception within the UK telephone network, being the only place in the UK not served by BT and is noted for its distinctive cream coloured telephone boxes and innovative services, for example becoming the UK's first fully digital network in 1989,[1] using Marconi System X telephone switches (Central Offices or Class 5 switches).

The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1999 at 225p per share, with Hull City Council retaining 44.9% of shares.[3][4] The share price peaked at £15.90 per share during the dot.com boom, and it was for a while in the FTSE 100 Index.[4]

In the early part of the new millennium, the company started to pioneer services such as ADSL, Video on Demand and Digital TV. In February 2006, it announced that it would be ceasing its Video on Demand and Digital TV services (called Kingston Interactive TV – KIT) on 1 April 2006.[5][4]

In 2007 Hull City Council sold its remaining 30.6% stake in Kingston Communications at about 68p per share.[4] Kingston Communications also changed its name to KCOM Group that year.[6]

In 2014, new Ofcom rules required all providers to offer broadband and phone bundles together, to offer better value to customers. Karoo's cheapest bundle was £29.99 per month. On 4 April 2016, KCOM Group PLC moved all of its brand under a single KCOM brand name.[7][8]

In November 2018 KCOM issued a profit warning, cut dividends and warned debts were 10% higher than the previous year, causing a 36% drop in share price. KCOM was acquired by MEIF 6 Fibre Ltd, a business unit of Macquarie Group, in August 2019 at 120.3p per share.[9][10]

Operations

Former KC logo (2010–2016)

KCOM provides ADSL, VDSL and fibre to the home (FTTH) broadband internet and telephone service in Hull and surrounding areas. The company only provide broadband services to customers with a KCOM residential telephone line. KCOM formerly provided these services under the Karoo and later KC brands, until it adopted the group name across its entire business in 2016.[11] KCOM also provides business broadband services through its Eclipse Internet subsidiary.

In September 2011, the company began a six-month trial of a 100 Mbit/s service in the East Riding of Yorkshire village of Woodmansey. Around 300 homes were involved in the trial.[12] The trial was part of a plan to roll out increased speeds to more than 15,000 homes across the East Riding of Yorkshire. The service is now available for up to 45,000 properties with a further 60,000, bringing the total fibre network to 105,000 properties by 2017.[13]

KCOM's fibre to the premises product, Lightstream, requires a new fibre-optic cable be laid to each premises that is terminated inside the home in an optical network terminal (ONT). A router is then plugged into the ONT to distribute the service throughout the home. As of April 2015, the service offered software limited speeds of up to 250Mbit/s downstream bandwidth. Due to delivery being FTTH greater speeds are a formality and fuelled by market expectation and not network restriction.

This led to Hull gaining a reputation for being a so-called digital city, a reputation which still holds true with Hull being in the top 16 digital clusters in the UK according to Tech City's Tech Nation report.[14]

The company has been rolling out FTTH service across its footprint, and expects to have completed the rollout to 97% of the company's network by March 2019. The FTTH offering provides 400 Mbit/s service to residential customers and 1 Gbit/s service to business customers, with the remaining 4% of customers able to receive 75 Mbit/s VDSL2 service.[15]

In October 2019, Hull became the first UK city to have full fibre broadband available for all residents.[16]

Monopoly concerns

KCOM broadband cabinet

As residents and most businesses in Hull are served only with telecoms services by KCOM, there have been complaints around Internet service provision; KCOM's broadband service is the only fixed-line residential broadband operator in the Hull area. According to a decision from the European Commission in 2004, KCOM Group held a 100% market share in the wholesale market of broadband services in the Hull area.[17]

In December 2005, Giacom, the owner of Hull24 – a rival broadband provider in the Hull area – complained to Ofcom regarding the provision of network access to KC's rivals.[18] The complaint was that "Giacom alleges that Kingston is not providing [network] access on reasonable terms as Kingston's pricing is anti-competitive and prohibitive to service providers [other than KC]". In April 2006 Giacom and KC resumed negotiations on a deal to allow Hull24 to use KC's network; as a result Giacom withdrew its complaint and Ofcom closed the case.[18]

In August 2007 the alleged-monopoly of KC was referred to the European Commission by Diana Wallis, MEP for Yorkshire and Humber area.[19]

In May 2008 the "Review of the wholesale broadband access markets"[20] report published by Ofcom determined that KC was not acting in a way that would keep out rival companies, and that pricing for wholesale broadband and access to local-loop unbundling was within the market range. The main reason cited by rivals for not providing services in the Hull area was rather one of overall cost-effectiveness, given the relatively small number of potential customers (190,000 homes), and the fact that many of these would be likely to remain with the incumbent supplier.[21]

In July 2009, Nexus Telecoms signed an agreement with KC enabling them to offer effective wholesale line rental and call tariffs to business consumers within the Hull area so giving them a choice of service provider.[22] As Nexus only provide broadband service to businesses, several other providers offering wireless Internet access via WIMAX links have set up and have taken some of KC's customers including Pure Broadband and Connexin, both local independent companies.

In September and October 2023, KCOM were embroiled in controversy when rivals started to erect wooden telegraph poles to carry their services into residential neighbourhoods, causing residents' protests. Local planning consent was not required under "permitted development rights".

Reporting on MP Emma Hardy's approach to Sir John Whittingdale, the minister for data and digital infrastructure, the BBC confirmed that "Under Ofcom rules, KCOM – as the area's dominant telecom provider – is required to share its infrastructure". Rival MS3 Networks commented that KCOM had historically failed to respond in a timely manner to requests to share their existing underground infrastructure. Communications provider Connexin (communications) had some local facilities, but had requested Ofcom to provide "clarity on pricing and access" to KCOM's infrastructure.[23][24]

In early 2024, after intervention by Graham Stuart MP conferencing Connexin with local politicians from Beverley, East Riding, Connexin started formal complaints with Ofcom against KCOM for failing to allow sharing of KCOM'S underground cabling infrastructure, causing Connexin to erect their own above-ground network.[25][26]

Sponsorships

From 2002 to 2021 KCOM held the naming rights to the MKM Stadium, which hosts games played by Hull City A.F.C. and the Hull F.C. rugby league team. The stadium is owned by Hull City Council.

From 2014 to 2019 KCOM also held the naming rights to Craven Park, where the Hull Kingston Rovers rugby league team play their games.[27][28]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "KCOM Group: Our History". Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Mijndomein". strowger-net.telefoonmuseum.com. Archived from the original on 16 January 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  3. ^ Brummer, Alex (13 July 1999). "Three flotations that test global buoyancy". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Wray, Richard (22 May 2007). "Hull City Council sells remaining stake in Kingston Communications". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2023.
  5. ^ "Kingston Interactive Television to cease operations". Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  6. ^ Kingston Communications changes name to KCOM Group Archived 27 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine Comms Dealer, 16 August 2007
  7. ^ "Macquarie to buy Hull telecom giant KCOM for £563m". Sky News. 3 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Macquarie's MEIF 6 Fibre unit to buy UK telecoms firm KCOM". Reuters. 12 July 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019 – via www.reuters.com.
  9. ^ Davies, Jamie (19 August 2019). "Macquarie bags KCOM for £627 million". telecoms.com. Retrieved 6 March 2023.
  10. ^ "Macquarie-backed MEIF 6 Fibre outbids USSL for telecoms firm KCOM". Reuters. 12 July 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2023.
  11. ^ "KC telecoms firm to change name to KCOM". Hull Daily Mail. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2016.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ France, Paul (20 September 2011). "KC 100Mbps fibre broadband trial to involve up to 280 homes". Cable.co.uk. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  13. ^ "KC Bringing Fibre Optic Broadband to 105,000 Hull UK Premises". ISP Review. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  14. ^ "Tech Nation report". Tech City's. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  15. ^ "KCOM Reveal Q4 2018 FTTP Broadband Rollout Plan for Hull UK – ISPreview UK". www.ispreview.co.uk. 10 October 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Full fibre - Hull shows the way". BBC News. BBC. 10 October 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Letter from the European Commission". Archived from the original on 2 August 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Giacom complaint against Kingston Communications about failure to provide Wholesale ADSL access". Ofcom. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Euro commission informed of KC's monopoly". www.tmcnet.com. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Review of the wholesale broadband access markets – Final explanatory statement and notification" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Kcom cleared of keeping out rivals". This is Hull and East Riding. Archived from the original on 1 August 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Nexus can now offer an alternative to Kingston for calls and lines in Hull". Nexus Telecommunications Ltd. 30 July 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  23. ^ "Protest in Hedon over plans to erect broadband poles in town". BBC News. 7 September 2023. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  24. ^ "Broadband poles row: Emma Hardy MP seeks more powers for Ofcom". BBC News. 16 October 2023. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  25. ^ "East Yorkshire MPs meet broadband bosses about telephone poles". BBC News. 17 January 2024. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  26. ^ "Graham ensures Beverley and Molescroft councillors have their say on telegraph poles". www.grahamstuart.com. 18 January 2024. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  27. ^ McCaskill, Steve (23 March 2016). "Hull-Based Broadband Providers KC, Kcom Rebranded As KCOM". Tech Week Europe. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  28. ^ Kemp, Dan (21 August 2019). "Hull KR reveals new name for Craven Park". Hull Live. Retrieved 29 January 2020.