Full-fibre gathers pace as Lightning strikes across South East while CityFibre looks north

East Sussex-based altnet spreads its wings across coastal regions of southern England with fibre offer into two neighbouring counties, as leading independent provider lands in Hartlepool

Full-fibre network builder, operator and ISP Lightning Fibre has announced a multimillion-pound expansion into West Sussex and Kent with new lower pricing for consumers, while CityFibre has continued its nationwide fibre roll-out with a development in Hartlepool.

Founded in Eastbourne in 2018, East Sussex-based altnet Lightning Fibre has recently passed 60,000 premises and increased its investment from listed infrastructure and private equity investment manager Foresight Group to facilitate further expansion.

Following a small pilot in Eastbourne, the firm secured roll-out investment for Eastbourne and Hastings in October 2020, and further investment in March 2021 to extend into Hailsham and Heathfield. Further private funding means the network will now reach Haywards Heath and Tenterden, with more towns under review, creating even more gigabit-towns in the south of England.

Lightning Fibre said that, unlike some other altnets, it does not rely solely on Openreach physical infrastructure access, which, it suggested, is often crowded or damaged, which means large swathes of the region cannot access full-fibre. The company said its investment model means it can lay its own, brand new infrastructure, enabling it to meet its pledge to reach almost every home and business in the towns it serves.

The new investment means a build to 140,000 homes and businesses is fully funded, and Lightning’s headcount will now rise to about 200. The firm also recently strengthened its board with the appointment of Amit Thakrar, portfolio director at Foresight Group, and Tim Passingham, chairman of Cambridge Management Consulting, who join fellow board members Ben Ferriman, founder and CEO of Lightning Fibre, and Simon Bonini, non-executive director.

Ferriman said: “This is a very exciting time for Lightning Fibre and highlights our rapid progress and success so far. We have not only built a network, we’ve built a brand that appeals to our local markets through a clear product and price differentiation as well as a genuine, evidence-based community-centric approach and exceptional customer care. We have thousands of happy customers in Eastbourne, and I am delighted that we have recently connected our first customers in Heathfield and Hailsham. We are ahead of schedule, and we are delighted to now push into two new counties.”

Commenting on the Haywards Heath extension plan, Stephen Hillier, cabinet member for economic growth and net zero at Mid Sussex District Council, said: “This private investment is great for our region and creates more local jobs. Haywards Heath residents and businesses can access a hyper-fast full-fibre broadband network. I welcome this news and I wish Lightning Fibre every success.”

Meanwhile, on the north-eastern coastline of England, CityFibre has started work on upgrading Hartlepool’s digital foundations with a £21m full-town investment. Construction of the town-wide full-fibre infrastructure is being delivered by Granemore Group, with the overall project expected to reach completion by 2025, but the first gigabit services will go live for people to take advantage of much sooner.

These services will be available from an increasing range of broadband providers. Across the UK, CityFibre is already working with launch partner Vodafone to supply full-fibre infrastructure for customers on selected Vodafone Pro Broadband plans and is working with other ISPs, including Giganet, IDNet, TalkTalk and Zen Internet.

Shane Moore, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, commented: “I am delighted that work has started, and it is great news for the town, its residents and businesses. As an authority, we are committed to growing the local economy to create a range of high-quality jobs for local people and the provision of reliable, high-speed internet services is key to that.”

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