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Airband Secure Additional Investment for UK Broadband Rollout

Monday, Mar 18th, 2024 (10:43 am) - Score 3,240
airband fttp build telegraph pole

Good news. Broadband ISP Airband, which previously aimed to cover 400,000 UK premises in rural areas via a mix of fixed wireless access (FWA) and full fibre (FTTP) networks by 2026, has today announced that they’ve secured additional investment from abrdn to “accelerate rural broadband expansion” across West of England.

The operator, which recently came through a period of restructuring that disrupted some builds and caused a few redundancies (here and here), has spent the past few years expanding their network across multiple UK counties, including parts of Wales, the South West, the Midlands, Cheshire and Oxfordshire. As part of that they’ve also scooped up various state aid funded contracts, such as around Shropshire, Devon and Somerset.

NOTE: According to the Amber Infrastructure Group’s update in July 2023 (here), Airband’s network had reached over 290k Homes Passed (of which 215k FTTP and 76k FWA).

The good news today is that Airband has announced that its majority shareholder, abrdn, have “committed significant further capital to support its commercialisation effort“. To date, abrdn has invested over £200m to growing the Airband business, which the announcement states now covers c.315,000 properties (of which c.230,000 are Ready for Service) across seven counties in the West of England and already serves over 19,000 customers.

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The additional commitment follows the conclusion of a detailed review of Airband’s business strategy, under which the business will focus on maximising its current assets (i.e. growing take-up). abrdn’s investment and ongoing commitment to Airband sits alongside a £100m senior debt package secured in 2021 from an international banking consortium.

Ian Fishwick, Chair of Airband said:

“Airband has built one of the largest rural altnets in the UK and provided service to many remote areas where we are now the only provider of Gigabit connectivity. As we all move to hybrid working, the shift in society depends on high-speed connectivity. For decades, young families have left rural areas to seek work. By giving families a chance to work from home in rural areas, we hope we contribute to a huge long-term shift in the prosperity of village life. The ongoing support of both abrdn and our banks allows us to concentrate on growing our customer base as quickly as possible.”

Dominic Helmsley, Head of abrdn Infrastructure, said:

“Over the past three years, we have worked alongside and supported Airband in expanding their network across rural parts of West England. Despite numerous industrial headwinds, Airband has proven its ability to deliver network deployment in challenging and highly defensive rural areas of the country, and our sustained financial commitment to the business reflects our dedication to supporting the reduction of the digital divide across the UK as the business continues to focus on attracting customers.”

The announcement represents an important development for Airband, which has recently faced a fair bit of uncertainty. But at least for now they can hopefully get back to a bit of network building and improving customers take-up, although it’s unclear how much this will impact their future targets and existing contracts.

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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
15 Responses
  1. Avatar photo MikeP says:

    I don’t see any commitment to further build-out in those announcements. It provides no sign that the CDS contracted areas that haven’t even started design yet will actually be built.

    It seems to be more about working capital to avoid going bust, sorry, provide medium-term security.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Nice to know my pension fund has been invested so wisely……

    2. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      As a result of the investment provided by abrdn, Airband will now be rebranded as arbnd.

    3. Avatar photo Mole says:

      That’s because there is no commitment for additional build in any of the superfast contracts. The additional funding that has been secured is purely to enable builds in areas where Airband have been successful in bidding for Project gigabit areas (They have to pay for the build before they can claim the money back). There is more money to be claimed in Project gigabit contracts compared to the CDS contract.

      I guarantee that there will be no further build progress in any remaining superfast contracts (CDS/Cheshire etc). If you do not have it now, you will not get it via Airband regardless of whether you are due to receive it UNLESS you can be descoped and brought into project gigabit, and you are unfortunate enough to get stuck with Airband as your supplier for Project Gigabit.

      Airband’s prices are far from being the cheapest, so you’d expect them to compete by offering gold standard customer service, however they are as inept at delivering that, as they are at building a network.

      What I would say, is that if you have the option of other providers in your area offering similar packages, do not go with Airband. If you are currently receiving less than 30mbps and your only option is Airband for the foreseeable future (and they are not quoting you ridiculous additional installation fees to connect you), then they are worth considering as opposed to spending £70-90 per month on a substandard starlink connection.

    4. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      @Mole I’m referring to the CDS contract for BDUK Phase 2 (which pre-dates Project Gigabit. By some years, as we all know). I’m in an area that was re-scheduled to Q2 2024 RFS, but heard in January from their community engagement team that design was yet to start, and was now scheduled for “later this year”.
      Now, as the CDS contract has an end date of the end of 2024….. I think we can basically forget it, as you say.

    5. Avatar photo Mole says:

      Indeed MikeP, the CDS contract is a superfast contract like the ones in Shropshire, cheshire, oxfordshire etc, with any that are still in progress due to end build at the end of this year.

      Any that are still unfinished will remain that way.

  2. Avatar photo Will says:

    Well, good news for us (I hope) so that we can ditch Starlink and move over to FTTP, but with Openreach planning to go live within 2 months, who knows who will win the race!

    1. Avatar photo Sam P says:

      One of my locations has Airband available, but I haven’t bitten the bullet yet as their reviews are some of the worst I’ve seen. I’m trying to hold out for Openreach as Zen have been absolutely spot on for me elsewhere.

    2. Avatar photo Will says:

      That’s my plan of action, Sam. I think it would be better in the long run to hold on a bit longer for Openreach if Airband go live first.

    3. Avatar photo Will says:

      Well, Airband have removed us from their rollout but made a property about 100 meters away live, so I am trying to get this sorted, hopefully it is just a database issue but it’s only one property on our postcode which has at least 10 properties… Fingers crossed as Openreach have also paused their rollout for the time being.

  3. Avatar photo Anonymouse says:

    At £400 CPPP (Cityfibre/Litfibre acq.) the back of the fag packet calculations

    prem value notes
    315k £126m mar 24
    239k £95m mar 24, exc. FWA assuming 76k FWA as per jul 23
    290k £116m jul 23
    215k £86m jul 23, exc. 76k FWA

    Liabilities of £116m at Dec 22 (increasing c£5m a month on the year before).

    By Mar 24, at £5m a month, £116m becomes £186m.

    However you look at it surely the shareholders are heavily underwater?

  4. Avatar photo Jon says:

    Perhaps they will invest in their customer service as it’s abysmal at the moment.

    1. Avatar photo elBison says:

      I had to explain what CG-NAT, public and static IPs were… A month later I’m still on CG-NAT. Should have cancelled in the cool down period.

    2. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      Nothing wrong with CGNAT. As long as the ISP is dual-stack. However, Airband are now pleading poverty as to why they don’t have IPv6.

      https://www.airband.co.uk/knowledge-base/does-airband-support-ipv6/

      Wait til they find out how much scaling up their CGNAT as their traffic grows (assuming it does grow) will cost them.

  5. Avatar photo 125us says:

    More than £10k spent per connected customer?
    Holy heck.

Comments are closed

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