Community Fibre expands fibre reach out of London with Box Broadband acquisition

London's largest alternative fibre network expands into Surrey and West Sussex with majority stake in Surrey-based full-fibre network operator to help realise commitment to bridging the digital divide and promoting social inclusion

Hot on the heels of Community Fibre announcing that it had passed 300,000 homes and gone within 100m of 12,000 businesses with its full-fibre infrastructure in its London catchpoint area, the alternative network provider has revealed a major expansion after acquiring a majority stake in Box Broadband.

Community Fibre currently operates a 100% full-fibre broadband network throughout London, already has a presence in the boroughs of Brent, Camden, Croydon, Hammersmith & Fulham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster, and is building in 17 other London boroughs.

Its network offers speeds up to 3Gbps to residential homes and 10Gbps for businesses, and is currently engaged in a significant acceleration of a network build programme aiming to connect one million London properties by the end of 2023 with what it claims is affordable, faster, more reliable broadband.

Surrey-based operator Box Broadband provides a full optical fibre network in Surrey and West Sussex and has passed 7,000 homes so far. The majority investment from Community Fibre – supported by its shareholders Warburg Pincus LLC, DTCP, Amber Infrastructure and Railpen – will support an accelerated network roll-out to 200,000 homes across the south of England by 2024. Post-acquisition, the company will remain an independent operational entity trading under the Box brand in the south of England.

Current co-founder and CEO Graham Sargood, who will continue to lead the operation, said: “We are delighted to receive investment from Community Fibre, which has established itself as champion for the many underserved communities in London. With their investment and operational scale, we will be able to quickly ramp up our build and provide high-speed and affordable services to many more customers in our target areas.”

Going forward, Community Fibre will share its own expertise and experience in the industry with Box Broadband. Community Fibre said the community it serves has always been at the heart of its business and this will also be reflected at Box Broadband. It believes providing free connectivity to community centres and free or low-cost connection for vulnerable customers can be just as important in rural areas as it is in London, even though it is not on the same scale.  

“Box Broadband has already established itself as a provider of fast and reliable trusted services to communities in Surrey and West Sussex that are underserved from a speed perspective,” said Community Fibre CEO Graeme Oxby. “As such, this is an exciting opportunity for us to invest in a company that shares our vision of affordable connectivity for all, and to expand across the south. With our backing from Warburg Pincus, DTCP, Amber Infrastructure and Railpen, we will be able to support Box Broadband’s ambitious growth plans and provide the operational experience, as well as technical and commercial knowledge of best practice and purchasing scale in order to build quickly and efficiently.”

Community Fibre added that through the acquisition, it will continue its mission to close the digital divide and promote social inclusion by bringing connectivity to rural areas underserved by existing large ISPs. The company also provides free gigabit broadband connection to 123 community centres across the capital and in January 2021 became the first fixed broadband provider to offer one-year free 50Mbps broadband in conjunction with social landlord partners to vulnerable households in all the boroughs it serves, to help with home schooling during the UK’s 2021 lockdown.

The company is also working with London’s largest landlords to build full-fibre connectivity to their properties. It is currently working with more than 200 landlords, who have already granted Community Fibre wayleave agreements to enable more than 600,000 properties, with more agreements soon to be announced.

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