Digital Infrastructure gains £100m investment to forge full-fibre roll-out

‘New era’ full-fibre network operator obtains nine-figure investment from independent transatlantic investment firm to deliver wholesale, residential and business connectivity

Private funding of £100m has been made available to so-called “new generation” alternative network (altnet) operator Digital Infrastructure as it embarks on a mission to provide ultra-high-speed broadband access to one million UK premises over the next six years.

Responsible for planning, building and operating full-fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks across the UK, Digital Infrastructure has already opened hubs in Cheshire, Essex and the Midlands. A fourth hub is set to launch near the Scottish border in 2022, with the ultimate goal of reaching about 80 towns and cities by 2027.

The investment from Basalt Infrastructure Partners – an independent infrastructure investment firm with a transatlantic focus on mid-market infrastructure, boasting a portfolio of assets valued at $5bn – is the driving force behind the launch of Digital Infrastructure and its sister internet service provider (ISP) brand Be Fibre, aiming to deliver reliable and high-speed FTTP to underserved, mid-sized towns in the UK.

Utilising existing duct infrastructure without having to dig up the roads, Digital Infrastructure’s strategy is to adopt what it says will be quicker and less disruptive build methods to reduce roll-out costs, increase efficiency and minimise the environmental impact of the network deployment. The symmetrical network promises download and upload speeds up to 13 times faster than the fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) coverage that currently spans most of the UK.

The nine-figure investment will also supercharge Be Fibre’s ability to deliver end-user residential and business connectivity over the Digital Infrastructure network over the next six years. ‍The move aims to create up to 500 engineering and white-collar jobs to support the growth of both organisations and the business supply chain by the end of 2022.

The venture is the brainchild of a number of well-known telecoms professionals, notably executive chairman investor and adviser Carlos Bock, who believe they are ready to challenge the UK’s networking status quoK. Joining Bock is Charlie Ruddy – who brings 30 years’ experience in telecommunications and takes the helm as CEO – along with chief marketing communications officer Rob Andrews, chief customer officer Louise Elliott, chief financial officer Dave Mountain and chief technology officer Oriol Riba.

“We embarked on our journey to future-proof the UK’s connectivity in January 2021, and things are really gathering momentum,” said Ruddy. “We are providing local communities with a fit-for-the-future infrastructure that delivers the guaranteed speeds people need now and for years to come. This is a brand-new network that will leave a positive legacy in society. We can positively influence how communities live, work and play – not to mention how people view the provision of what is now widely regarded the fourth utility.”

Andrews added: “We want to change the perception that the broadband market is full of broken promises when it comes to speed, reliability and customer service. Think the ability to download multiple box sets, high-definition films and games console updates in minutes, with no buffering worries when you’re trying to work efficiently from home on a video call. These are the connectivity demands that increasingly busy homes and businesses are rightfully placing on their broadband providers. And we’re here to deliver the performance improvements that customers are looking for.”

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