UK altnets advance pace of full-fibre deployment

One of the fastest-growing altnets in the UK raises £230m in committed debt financing, while country’s leading independent network provider becomes object of takeover as it maintains build-out momentum

The growing importance of the UK’s altnet market in the country’s burgeoning broadband sector has been clearly indicated, with growing provider Netomnia attracting £230m of investment and leading independent network firm CityFibre reportedly the subject of a multibillion-pound takeover by Virgin Media O2.

Netomnia, which claims to be the UK’s fastest-growing wholesale fibre broadband operator, has revealed it has successfully completed its latest fundraising of £230m in committed debt financing from a group of six bank lenders, namely HSBC UK, ING, NIBC, RBC, Standard Chartered and UKIB. The financing package also includes a debt accordion to be raised in the future to support the continued growth of the business.

Netomnia supports symmetrical multi-gigabit services up to 10Gbps using XGS-PON technology, and the backing comes at a pivotal moment in the company’s network deployment. It claims to be the fourth-largest altnet in the UK in two and half years, recently passing 410,000 premises ready for service and connecting 28,000 customers. Its build speed is said to be accelerating as it closes in on the goal of one million homes and businesses passed, and has recently undertaken network deployments in Purfleet, Essex; Coatbridge, Scotland; Mansfield, Nottinghamshire; and Bedfordshire.

“We are very pleased to welcome this new group of lenders to Netomnia and are thrilled they have chosen to support the continued acceleration of our business,” said Wil Wadsworth, chief financial officer at Netomnia and sister ISP YouFibre.

“The enthusiasm from these institutions to support our business is a testament to our successes at Netomnia and YouFibre, and our unique approach to building our full-fibre network and providing best-in-class internet speeds and services to customers across the UK,” he added. “Everyone in the UK is impacted by the rising cost of living, and interest rates are hitting businesses and families alike. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we continue to build our network at pace to provide better and more affordable broadband to as many homes and businesses as we can.”

At the other end of the UK altnet scale, according to reports in The Daily Telegraph, CityFibre is in talks with leading UK broadband provider Virgin Media O2 (VMO2), in a takeover bid that is said to be worth up to £3bn. VMO2 has of late been rapidly pursuing a policy of upgrading all of its consumer networks to full fibre as it tries to compete in an ever-competitive broadband market.

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CityFibre, which regards itself as the nation’s largest independent full-fibre platform, is embarking on a plan to serve up to one-third of the UK with gigabit connectivity by 2025, representing up to eight million premises in 285 cities, towns and villages, as well as 800,000 businesses, 400,000 local authority sites and 250,000 5G access points.

When approached by Computer Weekly regarding the reports of a possible acquisition of CityFibre, a VMO2 spokesperson said the company had no comment to add.

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