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Upp Plan GBP1bn Project to Rollout Full Fibre in East England

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 (7:30 am) - Score 3,528
fibre optic cable and ports image

A new broadband ISP and network builder called Upp (formerly FibreMe) has today unveiled its plan to invest £1 billion in order to deploy a new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across 1 million premises in Eastern England by 2025. Hundreds of new jobs will also be created.

The provider first came to our attention at the end of 2020 (here), when they were only known as Fibre Me and held a vague ambition to reach “poorly served” areas, such as those “served only by BT’s copper access network and with no meaningful competition from other providers.” But at the time we knew precious little about the operator or their plans.

NOTE: The £1bn appears to include c.£300m in equity and the rest is raised as debt.

The good news is that they’ve now been able to move forward. In keeping with that, the entirety of the equity financing for their multi-year business plan is said to have already been “fully committed” by investment firm LetterOne, the management team, and the Board of Directors. A total of 600 new jobs are expected to be created and the network will be supported by key suppliers including Nokia, Linksys, Fujikura and Salesforce.com.

The announcement states that Upp’s contractors (none are named) are already building in towns across Norfolk and Lincolnshire in England, which is where a number of other alternative networks are also focused (e.g. County Broadband, Lightspeed Broadband, B4RN etc.) and not to mention the big players, such as Openreach and Virgin Media. Some use of Openreach’s existing cable ducts is also planned (Physical Infrastructure Access).

Drew Ritchie, Upp’s CEO, said:

“I am thrilled to lead such a talented, dedicated and experienced team. We are excited to partner with an investor who not only matched our passion and ambition for the opportunity but is committed to developing the UK’s digital infrastructure. I’m delighted to say that LetterOne has more than met these criteria, backing the business with substantial funding that allows us to concentrate on delivering next level broadband to the communities that need it most.”

Lord Davies of Abersoch, Chairman of LetterOne, said:

“We are excited to partner with the Upp team to bring next level broadband to underserved regions of the UK. Every region of the UK has the potential to create breakthrough innovators, but no region can do this unless it is connected. We hope our substantial investment in connectivity will set Eastern England up to build back better for generations to come.”

At the time of writing, Upp has not said exactly where they’ve started building (beyond county level) or named their civil engineering contractors. The operator told ISPreview.co.uk they’re “not intending on publishing locations or contractor names as this is not our style,” which could make it harder for consumers to know what their plan is (albeit harder for rivals too).

In any case, a build this big will surely not stay under the radar for long. Despite all this, it’s rare to see a previously unknown provider pop-up with a £1bn build plan, which suggests that there’s still plenty of appetite in the market for such projects and that’s despite it becoming quite crowded. Equally, Upp appears to be backed by a few familiar names.

The provider’s leadership team hails from the likes of BT, Orange, Ericsson, KCOM and Gigaclear. The team includes industry veterans as independent directors and advisers: Robert Easton (former Partner of Carlyle) as the Chairman of Upp, Peter Kamphuis (founder of Deutsche Glasfaser and Reggefiber) focused on technology and network build, Pippa Dunn (former CMO of EE and Orange UK) focused on branding and marketing, and founding investor Jason Goodall (Global CEO and board member of NTT Ltd, and member of the UK Investment Council).

UPDATE:

The Conservative MP, Bob Seely, has raised some security concerns about the aforementioned project after it was noted that Letter One was co-founded by billionaire Mikhail Fridman. Former British spy Christopher Steele is known to have accused him of having close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, although such claims have been denied and Mikhail also won a High Court libel case against Steele’s company Orbis over the claims.

I do think in the UK, if we’re serious about pushing back on potential malign influence, we need to be very careful. I do not understand what is happening in this case,” said Bob Seely. However, Mikhail is currently only a minority shareholder in Letter One and there’s no suggestion that he has done anything wrong. Meanwhile, Upp’s project is being run by British management and no doubt they’ll be careful to select secure network suppliers.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Mike C Taylor says:

    I wish them well, here in South Colchester, BT have done part of the village and then stopped, and there has been no movement since pre-COVID. Feels like we are being left behind.

  2. Rich says:

    It’s not my style to subscribe to or pay attention to providers that think they are somehow above telling consumers their plans.

  3. GNewton says:

    Another Fibre to the Press exercise? All they have is a little wordpress site.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      …and a heck of a lot of financial support.

  4. Damien says:

    ““served only by BT’s copper access network and with no meaningful competition from other providers.” ”

    GOT to be Skegness then surely!? That said we’ve got an FTTP provider near that I didn’t even know about! – so trying to get people to register with them also.

    1. Paul Tyrrell says:

      Who are the other FTTP provider in the Skegness area?

  5. Routemeister says:

    Interested to see their expected returns – large areas, small populations don’t stack up if they want a quick return on their £1 billion investment. They can’t rely on the voucher scheme alone surely?

    1. MrNobody says:

      Maybe they are not in for a quick buck .. shocker

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