Fibre finance deal to connect ‘forgetten’ towns

Wholesale fibre network provider Full Fibre has announced a financing deal with specialist infrastructure investment fund Basalt Infrastructure Partners that will see the company spread its wholesale fibre-only infrastructure to at least 500,000 additional premises by 2025.

The business will continue its focus on “forgotten” market towns and areas, initially in the West Midlands, Central and South West, that might otherwise be left behind by the national FTTP rollout.

The deal means Basalt takes a majority interest in Full Fibre and will provide both capital investment and additional management expertise in growing successful infrastructure businesses. This investment will augment and scale Full Fibre’s existing build capacity and is set to expand its lightning fast, gigabit fibre optic network to the first 100,000 premises in 2021 and at least 500,000 by 2025.

The move by Basalt continues the trend of established infrastructure investors injecting capital into the UK broadband space. The increasing prevalence of challenger alternative networks, supported by private equity, is fast delivering a new, better future proofed, utility asset across the UK.

To date, around £10 billion of private investment into alternative networks has been announced, which is expected soon to exceed the £12 billion commitment by the incumbent BT and dwarfs the governments reduced commitment of £1.2 billion against their £5 billionn manifesto promise.

The current environment has highlighted more than ever the need for gigabit capable fibre broadband to be available as standard

COVID-19 has shown the stress put on the aging copper network as the economy moves further and faster towards a skills-based, technology-first, flexible working economy. The UK is fast closing the gap between itself and other EU nations in providing gigabit connectivity with the industry regulator OfCom estimating coverage to have reached 18 per cent this month, up from just 12% at the start of the year.

This new national infrastructure is needed to unlock economic growth and to help UK PLC maintain a competitive edge after leaving the European Union.   With unemployment climbing, these record levels of investment provide a booming employment market and the completed infrastructure facilitates the remote learning and social mobility needed to re-skill the workforce.

Full Fibre CEO Oliver Helm (above) said: “Full Fibre’s mission has always been to deliver pure fibre, wholesale -nly networks to underserved market towns. The current environment has highlighted more than ever the need for gigabit capable fibre broadband to be available as standard, and we are delighted to work with Basalt to accelerate this rollout, fueled further by the strengthening of our management team.

“The regulator has been clear that a competitive market for consumers is vital, and the simple presence of a new infrastructure may not be sufficient to deliver this. It is vital that new infrastructure provides a competitive wholesale market to consumers, giving them the ability to move their purchasing power in search of quality, price and service.”