Airband Community Internet Limited, a leading wireless and fibre internet service provider for rural and isolated areas in England and Wales (“Airband”, the “Company”), has secured new investment from the National Digital Infrastructure Fund (“NDIF”) to help connect more rural homes and businesses with high-speed broadband.
Recent studies have found that over 17 per cent of premises in the UK’s rural areas cannot receive decent broadband services, compared to just 2 per cent in urban areas. Airband – a family-owned business – has an established track record through Broadband Delivery UK’s (“BDUK”) Superfast Rural Broadband programme of deploying ultrafast connectivity in underserved and harder to reach places of the country where existing commercial providers continue to leave homes and businesses isolated from quality and reliable broadband. To date, Airband has secured approximately £25 million of contractual BDUK subsidies to support its network deployment.
Managed by infrastructure specialist Amber Infrastructure Group (“Amber”), NDIF has acquired a substantial minority shareholding and further committed up to £16 million of additional funding to provide the Company with flexible capital for its network expansion. The Company aims to pass an additional 50,000 premises by 2021.
Where laying full fibre networks in the most isolated rural areas can be challenging, Airband will build networks with an economically-efficient blend of fibre and fixed wireless assets to overcome the traditional hurdle to deploying ultrafast connectivity to these areas.
This hybrid solution is supported by Airband’s large existing mast network, which currently offers ultrafast connectivity to over 20,000 premises, including private homes, local authorities, SMEs, charities and emergency services, in remote areas of England and Wales.
Redmond Peel, Managing Director, Airband Community Internet Limited, said: “We have been expanding our Fixed Wireless Access network so that thousands of rural homes and businesses in some of the hardest to reach areas in Devon, Shropshire, Wales and the Midlands gain the opportunity to connect with broadband speeds of up to 30Mbps. This additional investment will mean that we can reach thousands more, and continue to develop our hybrid fibre network infrastructure, RuralOptic, which has recently completed a successful trial period. This blend of technologies is vital for connecting isolated communities, and we’re really proud to be able to provide superfast broadband for thousands of people who would not get it otherwise.”
Khalid Naqib, Senior Investment Director, Amber Infrastructure, said: “In structuring a flexible loan facility to fund fibre and wireless network expansion, NDIF is helping overcome the funding gap to rolling out cheaper, faster digital connectivity and in doing so, commercialising a real alternative to rival existing broadband infrastructure. Following our investment into Airband, NDIF is building a high-quality portfolio of digital infrastructure assets that have proven, long-term return characteristics supported by favourable policy conditions.”
Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Today’s investment shows how we are delivering better broadband. 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.”
Matthew Vickerstaff, Deputy Chief Executive, Infrastructure and Projects Authority, said: "The Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund is helping to increase access to private finance for companies delivering communication networks which are fast becoming a crucial part of our infrastructure. This investment shows how the fund is accelerating the roll out of ultrafast digital networks to rural areas across the UK."
NDIF is a commercial fund established in 2017 by Amber to invest in the next generation of digital infrastructure in the UK. It is supported by cornerstone investments from the UK Government through its Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF) and International Public Partnerships (INPP), a leading listed infrastructure investment company.
Amber is an established partner of central government and local authorities across the UK, pioneering new ways to mobilise and deploy capital on a commercial basis into vital and often underserved public infrastructure; such as energy efficiency and urban regeneration, as well as more mainstream economic infrastructure in the education, health, transport and utilities sectors.
In April 2018, NDIF led £25 million of investment into Community Fibre, an ultra-fast, full-fibre internet service provider to fund the rollout of full-fibre connectivity to a further 100,000 homes in London.
For further information:
National Digital Infrastructure Fund
+44 (0)20 7939 firstname.lastname@example.org
+44 (0)7807 296 032
Notes to Editors:
The National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF) is managed by Amber Infrastructure Group (Amber), and targets investments in core digital infrastructure in the UK on a fully commercial basis. NDIF benefits from a cornerstone commitment from the UK Government’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF) initiative, match-funded by private investors. NDIF reached its first close in July 2017, with further fundraising expected later this year.
NDIF forms part of the UK Government’s landmark DIIF, a £400 million government initiative to accelerate investment into fibre-optic based broadband networks and related businesses to build the next generation of digital networks to scale up and accelerate the rollout of ultrafast connectivity across the UK.
Amber Infrastructure Group (Amber) is a leading international infrastructure specialist, providing asset management and investment advisory services in respect of over £8 billion of assets in the UK, Europe, Australia and North America. Amber’s core business focuses on sourcing, developing, advising on, investing in and managing infrastructure assets within the utilities, PPP, transport, renewable energy and regeneration sectors. Amber provides investment advisory services to International Public Partnerships Limited as well as private investment funds, specialising in infrastructure, urban regeneration and energy efficiency. Amber is headquartered in London with offices in Munich, Sydney, Melbourne and San Francisco and employs over 100 people, making it one of the largest international infrastructure specialists.