UK-based broadband provider Airband has just secured what it described as a significant debt facility from a group of banks as it steps up efforts to build fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks in hard-to-reach areas of the country.
The provider said the £100 million (US$137 million) debt package from an international banking consortium, including HSBC, Lloyds, Nord LB and Sabadell, will enable it to accelerate its full-fiber rollout plan to cover 600,000 premises by 2025 – up from 100,000 premises currently.
Airband, not to be confused with Microsoft's Airband effort, nor Dallas-based Airband Communications that was acquired by UNSi in 2013, is thus part of a growing group of companies eager to build the next generation of broadband networks – in competition with BT's Openreach.
Rural connections: Airband focuses on bringing fixed wireless broadband to hard to reach locations – like here in the Exmoor National Park.
(Source: Shaun Davey / Alamy Stock Photo)
This group includes the likes of CityFibre, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic and the newly merged Virgin Media O2. Notably, Charl Tintinger, the former CTO of Gigaclear, joined Airband as CTO in April this year. Tintinger previously worked at giffgaff, Lebara Mobile and Vodafone.
Closing the gap
Established in 2009, Airband is now owned by Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI), which acquired a majority stake in November 2020. The founders and investor Amber Infrastructure retain minority stakes in the company.
In 2018, Airband secured £16 million ($22 million) from the National Digital Infrastructure Fund to help it expand its network to an additional 50,000 business and residential premises in England and Wales by 2021.
Redmond Peel, Airband's founder and managing director, said Airband was established specifically to supply rural areas with high-quality broadband services and close the digital divide between urban and rural communities.
"The pandemic has increasingly highlighted the deficit some communities in the UK face when it comes to services that those living in urban areas take for granted. Access to reliable and fast broadband that is fit for modern day lives – from home education and online grocery shopping during the lockdown through to the digitisation of many services, such as banking and streaming entertainment – can no longer be considered a luxury, but rather a basic utility," Peel said.
Airband primarily serves businesses and households in Devon, Somerset, Oxfordshire, North Wales, South Wales, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.
It offers 250Mbps download speeds for £37 ($50.86) a month and 100Mbps for £30 per month. It also provides a fixed wireless access (FWA) service as an alternative offering for £38 per month.
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
A version of this story first appeared on Light Reading.