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Gigaclear Gets £18m EU Loan To Expand Rural Fibre Coverage

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Gigaclear will use money to reach at least another 40,000 properties in 2016

Rural fibre to the premise (FTTP) broadband provider has secured an £18 million loan from the European Investment Bank as it seeks to expand its network to cover at least another 40,000 properties in the UK.

The loan is the largest ever awarded to a British company under the ‘InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators’ scheme and will be used to fund a third of the planned expansion. The loan builds on £30 million the company raised in May last year.

Gigaclear owns and operates 56 rural fibre networks and has another 35 under construction across the UK, including Kent, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Rutland, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Essex.

Rural broadband boost

suffolk rural country sheep farm © dibrova ShutterstockIt has won three BDUK contracts, becoming the first operator other than BT to secure government funding, and last year launched a 5Gbps service to homes and businesses, claiming the speeds offered provide a range of social and economic benefits without the need to give up the rural lifestyle.

“This level of support is a ringing endorsement of Gigaclear as a business,” said Gigaclear CEO Matthew Hare. “EIB clearly has faith in our model and vision. It can see our own commitment to invest and how effectively we are already providing next generation infrastructure for the UK’s rural economy and communities.

“We’re transforming lives and businesses, giving people access to the fastest internet speeds to be found anywhere in the world and technologically future-proofing these rural communities for years to come.

“We have estimated that 1.5 million properties in the UK could benefit from our services and we want to reach those people as quickly as possible, but we’re a capital intensive business. So this loan is a landmark moment for us and an important next step in our expansion strategy.”

FTTP rollout

Most of the UK’s fibre infrastructure is based on Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology, which uses copper for the final few metres of the connection. A number of operators, including CityFibre and Hyperoptic, offer FTTP connections, however these are mostly restricted to urban areas.

Virgin Media plans to expand its cable network to four million more properties as part of a £3 billion investment. However it is expected that the majority of locations earmarked for the rollout will either be in cities or places already served by BT.

The UK government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme aims to connect 95 percent of the UK population to superfast broadband by 2017, and has so far connected more than three million properties.

However BT is looking to boost speeds on its network using G.Fast technology cabaple of delivering 500Mbps and is also looking at rolling out FTTP in some areas.

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