Community Fibre raises £25m for full fibre rollout in London

Ethernet plug with fiber optic wire

Community Fibre has raised 25 million with the backing of the government's National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF) to roll out ultrafast full broadband to 100,000 homes in London by 2019.

In conjunction with follow-up funding from RPMI Railpen, a major UK pensions investor, the NDIF-led funding round marks progress towards Community Fibre's aim to roll out full fibre to 500,000 homes by 2022, with only 3% of UK homes currently connected with this form of ultrafast broadband.

The funding round also marks the first major investment by the NDIF, a 400 million government initiative to boost investment in the UK's broadband infrastructure, managed by Amber Infrastructure Group, and comprising part of the government's wider Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund.

Community Fibre's chief executive, Jeremy Chelot, said the investment showed that full fibre is the only way forward for ultrafast connectivity.

"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," he said, adding: "In addition to the homes we are connecting, thousands of people will benefit from this investment through the community engagement and upskilling programmes we run on all our instalment projects."

The investment will prioritise bringing full fibre speeds to social housing estates, with all parties hoping that ultrafast internet speeds can open up new economic opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged communities across London.

Robert Jenrick MP, the government's exchequer secretary to the treasury, meanwhile, said: "Today's investment shows how we are delivering better broadband for Londoners who will benefit from fast connections.

"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."

The plan to bring full-fibre to 100,000 homes follows Ofcom proposals published earlier this year outlining plans to raise UK full-fibre coverage from 3% today to 20% by 2020 - the equivalent of an additional six million premises.

The measures also took aim at BT's network division Openreach, with BT required to open up its telegraph poles and underground tunnels to rival providers by 2020/21 in order to mitigate their market dominance.

Annelise Berendt, principal associate at Point Topic, said the announcement was good news for Community Fibre and for full fibre deployment in general, as it continued the trend of recent investment into the sector.

Alongside a handful of rivals offering full-fibre services to homes and businesses, including BT and Virgin Media, the Community Fibre offers an array of packages at varying speeds, including an upcoming '10GIGAFAST' package for UK businesses which offers download speeds of up to 10,000 Mbps.

The government also introduced a 67 million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme in March, of which Community Fibre is part of, which can be used by small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) and surrounding local communities to claim 3,000 against the cost of installing gigabit-ready connections.

Berendt continued: "In terms of impacting London's businesses, while Community Fibre focuses primarily on the consumer market, higher speed broadband for residents means creating more digitally literate communities from which local businesses can draw employees.

"It also means better opportunities for home working thereby reducing costs for businesses in terms of work space rental.

"And it enables more startsups and entrepreneurial ventures from home, which over time can grow into larger businesses in turn creating new employment and opportunities in an area."

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.