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Voneus Merges Broadway Partners, SWS Broadband and Cadence Networks UPDATE

Monday, Sep 25th, 2023 (8:44 am) - Score 4,160
Voneus Engineer Vans

UK ISP Voneus, which is deploying gigabit-capable wireless (FWA) and full fibre (FTTP) broadband networks across rural parts of England and Wales, has today announced that SWS Broadband and Cadence Networks are being merged into their operations. On top of that, they’ve acquired Broadway Partners from administration.

The deal reflects an agreement between a consortium of existing investment partners, including Macquarie Capital, Israel Infrastructure Fund (IIF) and Tiger Infrastructure Partners. As a result, SWS Broadband (Rural Broadband Solutions Plc), Cadence Networks and Broadway Partners all begin operating as part of Voneus as of today.

Tiger Infrastructure Partners, the principal shareholder of Rural Broadband Solutions (RBS), the holding company of SWS Broadband and Cadence Networks, will become a major shareholder in the combined group alongside Macquarie Capital (which initially invested in Voneus in 2019) and IIF, which first invested in Voneus in 2021.

The combined group will be funded with up to £250 million in new capital from the three shareholders and bank lenders. The combined company has a target to serve over 350,000 premises across the UK, although the announcement doesn’t clarify whether that includes the coverage of their existing wireless infrastructure and there’s no mention of any timescale.

Christopher Traggio, CEO of Voneus Broadband, said:

“This is a very exciting time for Voneus, and for our new partners, shareholders, and the communities we serve.

We have the backing of our shareholders to accelerate our roll-out plan, which we know will make a positive impact as we all share the same focus to deliver innovative broadband solutions to communities across the UK.

Welcoming SWS Broadband, Cadence Networks and Broadway Partners into Voneus provides us with even more opportunities to support businesses, individuals, and communities to thrive – fostering economic development, education, and communication to help improve the overall quality of life no matter where they are from.”

The transaction creates a larger business that should also benefit from various synergies including improved economies of scale, a larger future build pipeline, diversified contractor relationships, and strong backing from institutional shareholders. All of the networks also operate in areas adjacent to where Voneus is already active.

Oliver Bradley, Senior Managing Director at Macquarie Capital, said:

“Voneus is already making a significant contribution to rural communities, but is only at the start of its journey. This important capital raise from three leading infrastructure investors and the joining of UK rural fibre players means we can rapidly accelerate the vital role we have in closing the digital divide nationwide.”

Yaron Kestenbaum, co-founder and managing partner of IIF, said:

“Our goal has always been to help Voneus evolve into a bigger and stronger business, with far wider outreach and solid institutional shareholder support. This merger will go a long way to achieving this.”

Emil W. Henry Jr., CEO of Tiger Infrastructure, commented:

“The shared vision of Voneus and Rural Broadband Solutions has been to invest alongside the UK government to deliver best-in-class infrastructure and service to meet the connectivity needs of greatly underserved rural households and small businesses. We are pleased to be teaming up with Macquarie Capital and Israel Infrastructure Fund to rapidly advance the realisation of that vision.”

Just for context. Voneus previously claimed to have “identified” a total of over 200,000 premises that could potentially be upgraded via either their FTTP or FWA broadband solutions. But so far they’ve only covered a total of over 10,000 properties across England and Wales (up from 7,100 a year ago) and we haven’t had another update on that since earlier this year.

By comparison, SWS (RBS) was originally planning to build FTTP to cover 100,000 remote premises, albeit focusing on small towns around Shropshire and Wales “where full fibre connectivity is currently unavailable”. Prior to that they had been running a wireless network in some of the same areas, and we don’t know exactly how much progress they’d made on any of this.

As for Broadway, they were aiming to cover 250,000 premises with their new full fibre network by around 2028. But the administrator’s report noted that the operator had so far only covered over 11,000 homes and over 7,500 Ready for Service (RFS) fibre connections, with c.1,000 fibre customers and c.1,000 wireless customers.

All builders of UK full fibre broadband networks are currently facing pressures from rising levels of competition, rising costs and the need to generate a good level of consumer take-up in order to keep investors happy. As a result, we’ve been seeing a lot of job losses and some consolidation creep into the market as those strains begin to manifest. The hope is that today’s merger will provide a more solid base to continue the plans of the aforementioned operators, but those core challenges still exist.

UPDATE 11:45am

Voneus has informed us that the 350,000 premises target reflects both gigabit wireless and full fibre coverage. In terms of timescale, the vague goal is to get there “as fast as possible“.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
5 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    So as a combined entity they’ve got an ambition of 1000 bazillion million homes passed/RFS, and been given another £250m facility.

    But only maybe 30k actually passed/RFS. In how many years?

    In a years time they’ll have added another 10k homes at best. What’s the point of this business when you have a handful of altnets (+ OR and VM) building more than the entirely of the whole Voneus network footprint in a month?

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      The point of this business is to keep rolling up the mergers and acqusitions and hope to eventually sell it for a lot more than they paid for it, leaving the new buyer wondering how to make money.

  2. Avatar photo Anony.mouse says:

    I guess we’ll see them on the other side of Administration too then…

  3. Avatar photo Another.Anon says:

    Building rural is a totally different ball game to building in towns and cities. The likes of Virgin and BT have taken the cream off the top so why don’t you give a little credit to a company that is trying to make a change to the rural areas that have been left out of the broadband revolution.

  4. Avatar photo finaldest says:

    Broadway announced plans to build and deploy FTTP in my area only weeks before their bankruptcy. Now that Voneus have taken over will that build still go ahead?

    Broadways website still says build will commence soon. The build process should be straightforward as fibre poll’s are in place along with the splitter manifolds. All that is likely needed is the fibre to be blown from splitter to CSP as the exchange is already fibre enabled assuming there is existing fibre at the nodes.

    I ask because Voneus only offer 30mbps wireless in my area but I currently get 100mbps via 5G from EE. So I have no intention of getting a wireless service. It will have to be FTTP.

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