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UK WISP moots IPO
Broadreach rolls out rail subsidiary
UK Wi-Fi provider Broadreach Networks today said it will create a new subsidiary business to focus on the company's on-train wireless Internet access efforts.
The creation of the new operation, Broadreach Train Services, will be backed by the parent's latest round of funding, the company said.
And it hinted that further funding is in the offing, perhaps through an IPO.
Broadreach has been pitching on-train Wi-Fi for some time. It already has the support of Virgin Trains, which is adding wireless networking to its Pendolino mainline services. It is also believed to be assisting Eurostar's Wi-Fi roll-out, and is known to be working with at least two other train operators.
In addition to the Virgin Trains connection, Broadreach is funded by Virgin, along with backing from BT, Intel and UK high-tech venture capitalist VCF Partners. All four investors contributed to Broadreach's latest funding round, the company said, though the extent of that investment was not disclosed.
However, Virgin has increased its stake in the business. Broadreach said that the two will announce fresh working partnerships in the "coming months". Alongside the work with Virgin Trains, Broadreach sites its ReadyToSurf Internet access terminals in Virgin Retail sites and provides Wi-Fi access to Virgin Net customers. Virgin Digital, the company's digital entertainment download operation, is due to launch in the UK in September, and we might hazard a guess that Broadreach could provide in-store Wi-Fi access to the service.
The extra funding will also be used to grow Broadreach's network of ReadyToSurf sites, which the company wants to extend to 4000 locations over the next two years. The company currently has over 240 sites and is operating profitably.
Earlier this week, rival WISP The Cloud also announced a further round of funding and the launch of a division focused on selling Wi-Fi to third-party service providers. Both companies see their respective funding rounds as an indication of investor confidence in their wholesale supply business models.
Confidence there will have to be if Broadreach is indeed to make a public share offering and do so successfully. That it is considering such a move was signalled by company chairman Stephen Davidson today. "We will continue to pursue an aggressive expansion plan, which will see additional investors - potentially through the public market - enter the company over the next 18 months," he said. ®
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