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Freedom Fibre and VX FIBER Agree to Merge UK Full Fibre Networks

Thursday, Dec 21st, 2023 (8:59 am) - Score 4,040

Alternative network operator Freedom Fibre has this week confirmed earlier speculation by announcing that they’ve signed an agreement with InfraBridge-backed VX UK Holdings ltd (VXFIBER) to combine their respective UK full fibre (FTTP) broadband networks – reflecting a combined total of 285,000 premises passed.

Reports first started hinting that Freedom Fibre might soon make a move to acquire VX in the summer (here). At present Freedom Fibre’s network – backed by over £111m of investments from Equitix – covers “approximately100,000 premises passed and their initial goal was to reach over 150,000 properties by the end of 2023. After that the operator, supported by UK ISP TalkTalk, also held an aspiration to eventually cover over 2 million premises in England and Wales.

NOTE: Freedom Fibre’s network is mostly working to cover parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Shropshire in England and North Wales.

By comparison, VXFIBER, which is owned by InfraBridge, has a number of deployments across the Staffordshire cities and towns of Stoke-on-Trent (here), Leek (here), Cannock and Penkridge (here), as well as Colchester in Essex (here), parts of London (via Prime Fibre), Haverhill in Suffolk (here), Crewe and Nantwich in Cheshire (here), and some projects in Bristol and Uttoxeter. Consumers access most of these via ISP LilaConnect.


However, VXFIBER’s operations in the UK were recently hit by a spate of redundancies, with the company also “pausing further deployment to focus on commercialising the fibre already laid” (here). Like many other players in this sector, VX is believed to have been under pressure from rising costs (build, leases etc.), competition from rivals (e.g. overbuild) and the related need to secure a viable level of consumer take-up to help satisfy investors.

Suffice to say that such challenges are a breeding ground for network consolidation, and today’s development is only the latest of several examples. In 2023 alone we’ve already seen Fern Trading consolidate four of their full fibre networks, while Nexfibre (Virgin Media O2) acquired Upp, Voneus combined Broadway Partners, SWS Broadband and Cadence Networks, and FullFibre Limited has also merged with Digital Infrastructure (BeFibre).

Neil McArthur, CEO, Freedom Fibre, said:

“This is a strategic merger which leverages the strengths of both Freedom Fibre and VX UK to create a larger, stronger and more diverse business backed by two significant investors with ambitions for growth. We are delighted to be joining forces with the VX team and are hugely excited about the future potential of this newly combined business.”

Damian Stanley, Managing Partner, InfraBridge, said:

“The combination of VX UK and Freedom Fibre, with the backing of our shareholders, brings together two of the UK’s leading altnets into a new, stronger company. Our businesses are highly complementary, including our geographic proximity, the quality of our network build and our retail and wholesale go-to-market strategies, and we now have a platform with the support of TalkTalk to provide ongoing connections across the enlarged business.”

Under the deal broadband ISP TalkTalk, which has been a minority shareholder in Freedom Fibre since 2021, will remain a shareholder in the combined business, and it remains to be seen what this could mean for customers connected via LilaConnect. But for now no further changes or migrations have been announced, with the focus likely to initially be on the technical challenges of bringing both networks together (not an easy task).

The transaction is still subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close by the end of Q1 2024, but this is likely to be a formality as the deal isn’t big enough to raise any red flags. Meanwhile VX UK’s parent company, VNEXT AB, headquartered in Sweden, will remain managed by InfraBridge.


VX UK was advised by Houlihan Lokey; Freedom Fibre was advised by Cameron Barney. Weil and Ashurst provided legal advice to InfraBridge and Freedom Fibre, respectively.

UPDATE 9:32am

Just to be clear. The new business will operate as Freedom Fibre Limited (FFL), run by Neil McArthur (Freedom Fibre’s founder and CEO) and the current FFL senior leadership team.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    This doesn’t really surprise me. VX have been very silly with their area selection, especially Staffordshire. Going for Penkridge instead of Stafford really is obtuse. Openreach have a fair amount of FTTP in new builds there and it’s such a small place.

    Similar story in Uttoxeter. Again a small place and Openreach + VM over built rapidly. They should have stayed focused on Stoke, then done the bigger areas like Stafford or Burton. 13,000 and 7,000 isn’t going to sustain 2 – 3 players. 70,000+ will.

    Hopefully the joint companies can bring common sense and much needed business acumen.

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:


      completely disagree

      new build are irrelevant (thats an agreement between developer and preferred infrastucture provider
      the cost to cover a 70000 premise town would be astronomical probably north of a million build cost
      much better to do somewhere where you have first move advantage

    2. Avatar photo John says:

      Netomnia is doing Stafford, so it would’ve been a bad choice, especially considering how slow VX is

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘13,000 and 7,000 isn’t going to sustain 2 – 3 players. 70,000+ will.’

      The size of the town or city is irrelevant. The only things that matter are the cost per premises passed and the take up.

      13,000 premises could sustain 3 players as long as deployment costs were low enough. Likewise 100,000+ premises cities with poor Openreach plant and a reliance on heavy amounts of digging can rapidly become unviable.

      They’d probably have looked at the Openreach network maps before they started, and at the planned builds. Good Openreach plant can be built in for less than £300 per premises passed by altnets and Openreach themselves can do it for £200. Where there is none due to the phone cables being direct in ground £700+ per premises for a street of semi-detached homes, even more for fully detached, a bit less for terraces.

      Doesn’t sound like much but the profit margins aren’t great and they’re all paying interest on the money they borrowed to build.

  2. Avatar photo Fastman says:

    Agsn.no understanding of the openreach strategy .openreach wold be building lots of new areas unless already indicated on the roadmap I expect they will.be deepening areas already partially covered and some smaller area at back end of the programme not actually to take place due to first moved advantage by an altnet

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Openreach wont be bulding lots of new area unless already in the roadmap

    2. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      Openreach is still expanding its build and still has a target of 25m properties by December 2026. Of course, not all of these areas to be built by then have been announced yet: every few months they announce another batch. The most recent was 142 new exchange areas on Dec 7.

      Openreach will prioritise those areas which have maximum benefit to itself, for example those which are cheap and easy to build (which is where the Altnets build too), or those where there’s the biggest benefit to early copper withdrawal.

    3. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      Which is why their prioritisation will be to deepen coverage in already announced areas as indicated by the recent announce where already previous build by openreach has previously taken place

  3. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Is there a way to visualize coverage for Freedom like in TBB?

  4. Avatar photo Bob says:

    Next year may see the start of serious consolidation of the alt nets. Most areas can only really support two players and BT/Openreach being the incumbent player will in most cases be taking the lions share leaving the alt nets to fight over the crumbs

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