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Wireless Broadband UK ISP Airband Secure £16m Funding Boost

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018 (10:37 am) - Score 2,885
airband wireless broadband mast

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) ISP Airband has today secured an additional investment of £16 million through the National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF), which will be used to help expand their rural superfast and ultrafast broadband network to pass an additional 50,000 premises in England and Wales by 2021.

The NDIF is a commercial fund that is supported by the UK Government’s £400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF). The latter of which was originally touted as only being focused on supporting alternative “full fibre” (FTTP/H) broadband networks, which seems to have been stretched a bit by today’s announcement.

Where laying full fibre networks in the most isolated rural areas can be challenging, Airband aims to 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 (aka – RuralOptic) is supported by Airband’s large existing mast network, which currently claims to offer “ultrafast connectivity” to over 20,000 premises, including private homes, local authorities, SMEs, charities and emergency services (some of these are part of state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK contracts, such as in Devon, Somerset and Shropshire).

Today’s £16 million announcement adds that the ISP now “aims to pass an additional50,000 premises by 2021 and this is on top of the £25 million in existing contractual BDUK subsidies, which as above has been used to support its recent network deployment across parts of England and Wales.

Redmond Peel, MD of Airband Community Internet Ltd, 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.”

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.”

We note that NDIF is being managed by the infrastructure specialist, Amber Infrastructure Group (Amber). As part of today’s deal the NDIF has also acquired a “substantial minority shareholding” in Airband. We expect that today’s investment will not only fuel Airband’s existing roll-out, but also give them the flexibility to bid on future deployment contracts.

NOTE: So far as we’re aware Airband’s ultrafast speeds of up to 1Gbps are only available to businesses, while the top speed for residential packages appears to be 30Mbps (4Mbps upload).

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar Tim

    Why are we still spending money on wireless. We should be spending the money on full-fibre.

    • The problem is that you could put £20bn on FTTP/H tomorrow but the service will still take around 15 years to deploy, meanwhile those in poorly served areas would remain stuck on older/slow connectivity. So you still need interim solutions.

      This is partly why Openreach are spending a comparatively small amount of money to deploy G.fast to 10 million premises by 2020, because it’s a short-medium term solution that can fill a gap quickly while FTTP is being deployed. Only doing FTTP would leave them more vulnerable to nimble rivals due to the slower pace of deployment.

    • Avatar 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G)

      Verizon and AT&T are deploying 1Gbps 5G Fixed Wireless Access in the US and its being used to quickly connect customers NOW and then they can backfill in the future with fibre connections once planning, digs etc have been done. Its also competitive, a quick FWA connection means a customer won’t wait for fibre and still gets a 1Gbps connection.

  2. Avatar Guy Cashmore

    Meanwhile, more than 18 months after Airband won the Phase 2 contract here in Devon, residents and businesses are still waiting. Waiting for the first connections to go live, waiting to be told which premises will have service available, waiting to be told when this will happen. Connecting Devon & Somerset and Airband appear to be holding a joint information blackout.

  3. Avatar Darren Brown

    Great news for air band and great news for rural communities. I recently went to Devon ( as did you Tim ) and the connectivity is shocking. As wireless matures and speed / technology improves, much of the future will be wireless 🙂 I recently tested a link that could do 1gbit no problem over about 1.5km. As ofcom release the higher spectrum required for P2MP there will be higher capacity rollouts.

  4. Avatar justine warnock

    You say England and Wales but what about Scotland . Living in remote area of highlands we have several issues regarding wifi ….

  5. Avatar Shawn

    Being in an area that’s meant to be covered by Airband I tried to get it, but it has a fundamental problem… Trees, so they said it was no use. So I’ve ended up with an external 4G antenna on EE and at the moment I get 30 Mbps down 20 Mbps up. Shame about the data limits and cost though.

  6. Avatar thomas mccrystal

    Any chance of coming over to northern ireland

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