Community Fibre gets £18 million from public/private UK infrastructure fund

A London-based full-fibre ISP has secured £25 million in new financing led by the National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF).

The NDIF is a fund initiated by the UK government as part of its almost identically-named Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which was announced last year as a £400 million pot designed to kick-start expected to be more than doubled by private sector investment. So this is actual investment, as opposed to a state handout, which is good.

It would seem to be a reasonably sound investment too, since Community Fibre intends to use the fresh cash to connect 100,000 homes in private and social London housing estates. The company’s longer-term objective is to connect 500,000 London homes with full fibre by 2022.

As the headline says, the NDIF is fronting up £18 million of the £25 million total in this round, with the rest coming from current Community Fibre investor Railpen. The NDIF is run by infrastructure specialist Amber, which was identified as the main private sector partner when the fund was announced.

“This investment shows full-fibre is the only way forward for ultra-fast connectivity,” said Jeremy Chelot, Chief Exec of Community Fibre. “Community Fibre is the partner of choice to deliver high-quality, fast pure fibre connection, to deliver sustainable investment and to support Government policy across the UK. This funding takes us a step closer to have our full-fibre network available to social housing or private landlords in every borough in London.”

“We want to see full fibre broadband rolled out across the UK as quickly as possible and to support a competitive private sector in delivering that objective,” said Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. “That’s why we created the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which is boosting the rollout of full fibre to enable people to live and work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”

“As long-term, responsible partners to the public sector, our aim is to mobilise capital effectively to scale up the digital infrastructure that is so critical to the UK’s economic future,” said Khalid Naqib, Senior Investment Director at Amber. “NDIF’s investment will help deliver gigabit connectivity to London’s local communities and secure appropriate returns for our investors, one of which is the UK taxpayer.”

£25 million isn’t that much in the great scheme of things, but 100,000 more fibre connections are still a lot better than nothing. It looks like this is how fibre rollout will progress, at least in the UK: small, piecemeal investments over time eventually resulting in most of the country being connected to full fibre. The most intriguing part is how much of this is being done without the involvement of BT or even Virgin Media.

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