Community Fibre wins £18m from infrastructure fund

Plans to hook up 500k Londoners to 1Gbps speeds in 4 years

Community Fibre has won £18m from the UK government's broadband fund – the first outfit to do so since the cash pot was announced back in 2016.

The firm said that following the cash injection, it expects to roll out fibre speeds to 100,000 homes across London in the next 12 months, and to more than 500,000 premises in the capital by 2022.

Of the £18m, £9m is being provided by International Public Partnerships, the FTSE 250 infrastructure investment company. The remainder is from Amber Infrastructure and government via the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF), but that split is not disclosed.

Investor Railpen has also thrown £7m at Community Fibre initaitive, in addition to the taxpayer funds.

The Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund was announced by Chancellor Phillip Hammond in his 2016 Autumn statement, with £400m of public money intended to help support the rollout of full fibre and 5G mobile-based ultrafast broadband networks.

It was created to address Britain's woeful full-fibre penetration – only 3 per cent of homes are connected to broadband with capacity to provide gigabit speeds. But little has been heard about investment plans until now.

The fund is focused upon assisting alternative network providers, and is managed by infrastructure investors M&G Investments and Amber Fund Management.

Community Fibre specialises in providing broadband plumbing to social and publicly owned housing developments.

CEO Jeremy Chelot said: "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."

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, added his tuppence worth too, saying that not only London will benefit from the funding.

"As we increasingly live our lives online, it is vital our digital connections can support this. 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."

A report by the Independent Networks Co-operative Association recently found alternative network providers had passed nearly one million full-fibre connections last year – more than double the amount managed by BT's Openreach. ®

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