New alternative network operator Spring Fiber has announced that they’ve secured an investment of “up to” £155 million from R&M’s (River and Mercantile) Infrastructure business, which will support their plan to build a new 10Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network to cover 1 million premises in England.
The new operator – initially backed by Kingsley Capital Partners and telecom specialist Graphite Strategy – first came to our attention in April last year after they informed Ofcom of their tentative plan to rollout a new full fiber network (here), mainly to areas served only by slower FTTC (VDSL2) lines from Openreach. The network would then be made available to other ISPs on a wholesale basis.
The trail then went cold, until this week when R&M‘s new Infrastructure investment business – largely supported by former figures from Aviva Investors – suddenly unveiled a huge funding commitment for the project. Not too shabby for an operator that has yet to make its mark on the market, at least in terms of a physical network build.
According to the blurb, “Spring Fibre’s plans are to create a network rising to more than 1 million premises passed over time. Spring Fiber targets areas with poor internet provision and will deliver a major boost to many under-served communities and businesses..”
Rosalind Singleton, CEO of Spring Fibre, said:
“We are delighted to begin this partnership with R&M which shares our vision of building first class sustainable networks and long-lasting relationships. FTTP (fibre to the premises) rollouts across the country are still not matching customer demand or covering enough locations.
We are confident we can expand and accelerate access in areas that would benefit the most and expect our first homes to be live within the next six months, with many more to follow.”
Ian Berry, Head of Infrastructure at R&M, added:
“As in many countries, we continue to see growing demand for better and faster access to data across the UK. However, the provision of infrastructure is often skewed to larger cities, meaning that many areas of the country remain under-served to the detriment of the people who live, work or operate businesses there.
In helping to solve this problem, Spring Fibre’s network will make a significant positive societal impact. From an investment perspective, we consider data infrastructure is a critical asset and investments such as this help us provide reliable, long-term income to our clients.”
We can estimate that the level of committed funding would, if fully realized, be enough to deliver roughly a quarter of their network delivery target (around 250,000 premises) – depending on the balance of rural to urban deployments. But at present nothing is known about their rollout plan or the timescales for delivery, while Spring Fibre’s website is still just a holding page.
The new operator will also be entering into an already grossly overcrowded AltNet market, which has seen a rising level of network overbuild over the past year and a growing expectation of future consolidation. Suffice to say that Spring Fiber will find early life a bit harder than those that came before, but at least they’ve got that all important funding box ticked.
R&M was advised by Analysys Mason, CMS and PKF Francis Clark; Spring Fiber was advised by Acuity Advisors and Thrings, and Spring Fibre’s founder shareholders were advised by Gateley.