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Altnet Gigaclear, a builder of rural fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband networks to serve villages that were left behind in the rush to so-called superfast broadband, has secured an additional £111m in equity funding to accelerate its network build rate and support its investment in a number of second- and third-phase Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) contracts.
The Oxfordshire-based service provider has won a number of government BDUK contracts across the south of England and the Midlands in recent months, as the scheme – which courted controversy when all the first-phase contracts were awarded to BT – moves into its latter stages. A significant chunk of Gigaclear’s latest investment will be used to help fund the first stage of these BDUK projects.
The money will be put up by current shareholders Infracapital and Woodford Investment Management, which have committed £60m and £15m, respectively, along with £1m from other shareholders. A further £35m injection will come from RPMI Railpen, which manages the Railways Pension Scheme.
“Full fibre is the future,” said Gigaclear CEO Matthew Hare. “This latest round of investment will enable Gigaclear to step up our speed of network delivery and is a clear signal of the confidence that investors have in our continued expansion and success.
“Millions of rural homes and businesses across the country need better broadband and we want to reach as many of those in rural areas as quickly as possible. Our pure fibre network transforms lives by providing access to the fastest internet speeds to be found anywhere in the world and technologically future-proofing these rural communities for years to come.”
Railpen investment director Paul Bishop added: “As a long-term investor, we see the partnership with Gigaclear as a natural fit that will allow us to generate strong returns over time and fulfil our mission to pay members’ pensions securely, affordably and sustainably.
“We are also delighted that the company will be supporting local communities by bringing the benefits of best-in-class fibre-optic broadband to homes and businesses in new parts of the country.”
Meanwhile, telecoms regulator Ofcom has opened two consultations on whether or not to grant code powers to two more rapidly growing altnets.
Buckinghamshire-based FTTP supplier Aylesbury Vale Broadband and London-based business broadband provider G.Network have petitioned Ofcom for the powers, which are designed to make it easier for companies that provide electronic communications networks to build and maintain their infrastructure under the terms of the 2003 Communications Act.
The powers allow companies to construct and maintain infrastructure on public streets without needing to obtain a specific street works licence; to benefit from a number of immunities under town and country planning laws; and to apply to the courts for permission to carry out works on private land if they cannot reach agreement with the landowners.
Ofcom will consider any responses to the consultations before deciding whether to make a direction under the terms of the act to grant these rights to the two companies.
Aylesbury Vale Broadband was set up as a joint venture between the district council and technology entrepreneur Andrew Mills, a one-time internet adviser to the Cabinet Office. It connected its first customers to its FTTP network at the end of 2015, and has since been expanding across the rural Aylesbury Vale area.
G.Network, the brainchild of telecoms executives Sasho Veselinski and David Sangster, is building an FTTP network to serve businesses in parts of central London that have long been notorious for poor broadband connectivity. The company offers packages with speeds ranging from 20Mbps to 10Gbps.