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Gigaclear gets European funding boost for further expansion

Rural broadband provider secures £18m loan from the European Investment Bank

Ultrafast fibre broadband supplier Gigaclear is set for further expansion into rural areas of the UK after securing a €25m (£18m) committed debit facility from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Gigaclear – which celebrated its fifth anniversary in December 2015 – has already passed 15,000 rural properties with fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services in Berkshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.

Last year it became the first service provider other than BT to be awarded contracts under the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

This year the firm hopes to pass a further 40,000 homes and businesses through commercial digs, which will require a major investment on its part. About one-third of the money for this will be financed through the EIB facility, it said.

“This level of support is a ringing endorsement of Gigaclear as a business,” said the company’s chief executive, Matthew Hare. “EIB clearly has faith in our model and vision. It can see our own commitment to invest and how effectively we are already providing next-generation infrastructure for the UK’s rural economy and communities.

“We are transforming lives and businesses, giving people access to the fastest internet speeds to be found anywhere in the world and technologically future-proofing these rural communities for years to come.”

Hare said about 1.5 million properties around the country could benefit from Gigaclear’s service, which it tends to make available on a community-by-community basis, knocking on doors and holding meetings in local pubs to drum up interest in small villages left untouched by the BT roll-out.

At the time of writing, Gigaclear owned and operated 56 fibre networks and was in the process of building 35 more. In the past, its management has hinted that it was heavily oversubscribed.

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“We want to reach those people as quickly as possible, but we are a capital-intensive business,” said Hare. “So this loan is a landmark moment for us and an important next step in our expansion strategy.”

The loan is the maximum amount available under the InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators MidCap Growth Finance scheme.

Jonathan Taylor, EIB vice-president, said: “Improving internet access in rural areas is crucial for economic activity, healthcare, education and access to key services.

“Over the last five years, the European Investment Bank has provided nearly €12bn to improve broadband and telecommunications across Europe. We are pleased to support Gigaclear’s activities in our first targeted support for rural communications in the UK.”

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