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As UK altnet Community Fibre aims to deliver 1Gbps of full-fibre broadband to London communities and up to 10Gbps to businesses, it has seen its controlling equity acquired by private equity firm Warburg Pincus and specialist technology investment management group DTCP, alongside existing investors Amber Infrastructure and RPMI Railpen.
Community Fibre’s stated mission is to empower communities by offering more reliable and affordable connections, and to make London a Gigafast city – a key UK government target. The company launches and operates its own dedicated 100% full-fibre network, saying that running fibre optic cable all the way into homes and business premises helps deliver maximum speed, reliability and efficiency, with zero use of legacy copper.
Terms of the transaction with Warburg Pincus and DTCP have not been disclosed, but Community Fibre say the deal will fulfil its ambition to fibre-enable one million households by 2023, representing investment of £400m, funded by the new shareholders.
“This is an exciting deal for Community Fibre,” said Community Fibre CEO Graeme Oxby. “Having Warburg Pincus and DTCP on board is a tremendous endorsement for our business. In a post-Covid-19 world, digital connectivity will be more crucial than ever. With further new investment, we can work faster than ever to deliver 100% full-fibre broadband to social housing residents and to local communities and their businesses across London.”
Community Fibre also sees significant market opportunity in its patch, where demand for high-speed, high-quality internet to the home (FTTH) and to businesses (FTTB) is growing exponentially, but where a large proportion of London is offered some of the poorest and slowest broadband services in Europe.
To address this issue, in November 2019, Community Fibre teamed with cloud and IT services provider Glemnet to bring gigabit-speed broadband to its customers in the south London area.
On completion of the transaction, expected within a few weeks, Olaf Swantee will join Community Fibre as executive chairman. Swantee was formerly CEO of Sunrise Communications, the second-largest telecoms provider in Switzerland and CEO of EE. He said: “I am excited to be joining a business in a sector that I am passionate about, where there is a clear vision and purpose. Working alongside blue chip investors such as Warburg Pincus, DTCP, Amber Infrastructure and RPMI Railpen will also open up new and exciting growth opportunities.”
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Over its 20-year history, Warburg Pincus has invested $4bn in a telecommunications and technology infrastructure portfolio. Recent examples include Inexio in Germany, Converge ICT in the Philippines, INEA in Poland, America.Net in Brazil, Airtel in Africa and Inmarsat in the UK.
Rene Obermann, co-head of Europe and managing director of Warburg Pincus Deutschland, said: “Community Fibre aims to close the digital divide and promote social inclusion. Affordable high-speed internet for London’s social housing, and free Gigafast connection to community centres and libraries will create limitless opportunities in education, recruitment and training, with one click of a button.”
DTCP said it has been investing at the intersection of technology and digital infrastructure for years, including in edge cloud company Fastly and tower infrastructure company Swiss Towers. Vicente Vento, co-founder and CEO of DTCP, said: “Now, more than ever, we believe in a world where ubiquitous and affordable high-speed connectivity helps society thrive.
“We are looking forward to partnering with Community Fibre, together with Warburg Pincus, to support them on their mission to power communities with ultra-fast fibre connectivity across London.”